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Department of Mind-Blowing Theories (2020)
Book Reviews

Department of Mind-Blowing Theories (2020)

Gauld’s latest comic collection is a brilliant deadpan look behind-the-scenes about science and all of its wonderful, hilarious discoveries.

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Let’s be honest – grasping science isn’t exactly the easiest thing for any layperson to do. There are intricate methodologies and ideologies one has to grapple with, let alone take an exam on during high school. And most of all – science is serious work. But when Tom Gauld, the brilliant Scottish cartoonist, turns his funny and scrutinizing gaze on to your profession, such as he did for his writers and poets along with literary classics in Baking with Kafka and The Snooty Bookshop: Fifty Literary Postcards, it’s a treat for all to enjoy.

Who knew science could be so hilarious? As evidenced in this fine comic collection from the archives of New Scientist, Gauld’s Department of Mind-Blowing Theories encapsulates the scientific profession in bite-sized pieces that are belly-achingly funny and still highly instructive. His genius lies in producing cartoons that any person can understand, whether they have vast amounts of knowledge about a topic or if they vaguely remember science class. The simplicity in his message is so clear – especially when you catch woeful scientists watch their creations go down the tubes.

Generally known for his high-brow humor, Gauld takes the seriousness out of science and tosses in nanobots lost in a sneeze, platonic solids on a holiday, or Facebook comments on theories just to let everyone in on the joke. We’ve all been in that place when a comment on social media drags anyone – regardless if they’re a well-known scientist, celebrity, or your next-door neighbor – down to the commenter’s level.

Reminiscent of Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes or Gary Larsen’s The Far Side, Gauld’s cartoons even give you some food for thought around certain topics. How science may produce facts on certain topics but a journalist will still position to create headlines that will sell. It’s interesting how the media will always try to frame things that benefit themselves most rather than the general public.

Though it was hard to choose the best cartoons out of the bunch, a few of my favorites included: figuring out a Nobel Prize-winning theory before lunchtime only to have your brain consumed by the idea of lunch, and how ‘making discoveries’ and ‘saving lives’ is all well and good, but without making any sort of impact on social media, is it really worth continuing?

Even if you disagree (!) with science and all that it holds, Tom Gauld finds ways to make it enjoyable, relaxing the lines between absurdity and hilarity. Though he pokes fun at the daily work scientists do, he comes at it with a child-like innocence which isn’t done in a mean-spirited way. Life is ludicrous as it is so why not have a laugh? Chock full of sardonic goodies from beginning to end, Department of Mind-Blowing Theories is the scientific cartoon collection we all need in our lives right now.

About the Author: Evelyn Wong