Department of Mind-Blowing Theories

Can science be funny? Looking at the pages of Eisner Award-winning humorist and cartoonist Tom Gauld's Department of Mind-Blowing Theories, the answer is a resounding yes. The book collects 150 one-panel cartoons originally drawn for his weekly strip in New Scientist.

Though originally created for an internationally recognized science and technology publication, Gauld's comics do not talk down to readers; in a word, they are meme-able. He draws in a minimalist style that communicates situational humor; even if a reader might not get every punchline, Gauld's work is sure to elicit more than a few grins (and maybe even a few grimaces). After all, one does not need to have a background in artificial intelligence to smile at the thought of a future where cars go from self-driving to being self-aware to self-righteous--until finally, they reach the point of self-doubting.

Similarly, in this influencer-driven world, pondering "What would it have been like if alchemists had Instagram?" might leave readers leaning into the hashtag #nevergiveup. As seen in this last scenario, Gauld's comics don't deal solely with science but cross into popular culture and also brim with literary and other humanities-based references. There's even a couple of retold fairy tales, including "The Three Little Scientists and the Big Bad Wolf" and a new take on "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." In any case, it's a great volume to flip through and flip around in--and by the end of it, 150 cartoons might not be enough. --Michelle Anya Anjirbag, freelance reviewer

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