Five Webcomics for Science Nerds

Here’s five web comics for all you science geeks getting bored at work or in class.
Caution: Peruse of these links in a library are strictly at your own risk. Don’t blame me if you get kicked out for laughing out loud.

5. Dark Science
Written and drawn by Aaron Diaz, nerd extraordinaire, this comic has the most gorgeous art in the list. It’s also different in that it’s the only comic here which has sequential story-telling and refreshingly enough, isn’t comedic. It might be intimidating to look at his archives but Dark Science is an expansive tale of a young girl with a prosthetic arm exploring a world that lies somewhere on the scale of fantasy and sci-fi. Where on that scale is an evolving metric which changes non-linearly with the progress of the comics. All in all, while the sheer size of this one’s archives might put you off, the time spent on it is going be well worth it- because like I said, nerd extraordinaire!

4. PhD Comics

Piled Higher and Deeper by Jorge Cham is a remarkably entertaining take at the environment of graduate schools and the various characters that litter it at different times of their lives. Running all the way back to fall, 1997, this comic has humour strewn across its archives and is inspired heavily by Cham’s own time at Stanford. The name comes from an in-joke in academia which has alternative expansions for the acronyms of various levels of education in science. BS being Bull-shit, MS standing for More Shit and finally, the PhD being our comics’ namesake. Just thought I’d give you some (more) context on the name!

3. Spiked Math

This little known comic is a goldmine of the relevance of math in our world. Written and drawn by a semi-anonymous Mike who’s doing a post-doc at a Canadian university, the comics ranges from very geeky math puns from its oldest archives to some mind-numbing details of numbers calculated accurately on the fly to give you a sense of scale of what is mathematically possible. The comic above is a fantastic example of the same.

2. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

A comic drawn and written by Zach Weiner (Yes, it’s okay to laugh), covers the breath of art and science from math, physics, philosophy, psychology and literature. His humour is equally diverse ranging from plain silly to downright morbid and that is perhaps to be expected from a literature student who majored in physics later. His comics often evoke thought and yet, are rarely so dense that their intent escapes you. Drawing this fine line is testimony to Zach’s genius. His ability to link up culture with such academically dense topics shines. Weiner is also not afraid to draw inspiration heavily from various sources and this might be because his execution is fantastic, regardless of the source of material. The comic is also heavy on sexuality and yet, done in his inimitable cartoonish style, seems persistently safe for work!

1. XKCD – A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.

Randall Munroe is possibly a legend in the web comic arena, akin to Watterson when it comes to strips. And I certainly don’t make that comparison lightly! A former roboticist for NASA, Munroe’s stick figure cartoons are instantly recognizable. They come with nuggets of information hidden in the humour (and sometimes, romance!). And sometimes, the other way around. The fact that makes XKCD stand up here even with its simplistic art, as compared to other comics in this list is how smart Munroe is. So much so, that sometimes, a joke just falls flat. And it’s not because the joke is such, but because it requires a deeper understanding of the subject being dealt with. XKCD has its own crowd-run wiki which attempts to add context to the comics and explain them. However, the depth of Munroe’s knowledge is better illustrated by his hilarious what-if series of essays. I put XKCD up here because you’ll possibly be amused more by SMBC, XKCD is where you’ll learn the most. Important note: Never forget the scroll over text with XKCD!

Notable Mentions:
Don’t Look Back – A sci-fi 3D art style comics drawn and written by Patrick Sean Farley, it is self-described as a space rock opera set in the seventies prog-rock future.
Abstruse Goose – A comic inspired heavily by XKCD, the humour is less sophisticated but certainly more accessible.
Beatrice The Biologist – A comic for the life sciences folks.
Scenes from a Multiverse – A comic depicting humour from across the multiverse.
Tree Lobsters – Very limited in terms of artwork, this verbose and deep comic seems heavily inspired from Dinosaur comics.