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Suspended in Language

Page history last edited by Katie Kelsch 12 years, 2 months ago

Creators: Jim Ottaviani, Leland Purvis

Original Date of Publication: April 2004

Publisher: G. T. Labs


Plot Summary


Suspended in Language describes the life, career and influences of Niels Bohr, the scientist most famous for his model of the atom, which is ultimately inaccurate. Even though the book is structured chronologically -- beginning at Niels' birth and ending with his death -- there is no real overarching storyline. Instead, Ottaviani recreates what it might have been like to live as a contemporary of such amazing scientific minds such as Einstein and Schrodinger. He takes careful precautions to place the scientific discoveries made between the 1930s and World War II in proper historical context. The comic touches on how influential Bohr was on the scientific community even though many of his theories turned out to be wrong. It also describes Bohr's political role during WWII, and how he actively campaigned for the sharing of scientific knowledge between nations.

Thematically, the comic explores the relationship between science and poetry -- Bohr had a lot of trouble communicating with large audiences because he couldn't find the words to describe his theories. Bohr was focused on what he could actually say about his findings instead of what he could speculate about his findings. He very much thought of science as a process, and was completely comfortable presenting his work in a manner that many of his contemporaries found to be "incomplete."


Significant Features


The significant feature of this work is arguably that it's a comic in the first place. In theoretical physics (the study of phenomena that we can't observe with the naked eye, either on the sub-atomic level or in space), the relationship between time and space is, well, very complex.  In comics, time and space are the same thing -- as we move forward in the comic, we also move in time within the narrative.


Secondly, Suspended in Language presents very complicated information in an easily accessible format. Even if the reader doesn't necessarily understand all of the science, it provides a jumping-off point to dive deeper into the material because the characters and the relationships between them are so rich. A science teacher/professor could easily use this as a secondary text in a classroom.


Impact / Influence 


Suspended in Language, along with Ottaviani's corpus as a whole, continues to set the benchmark for writers of non-fiction science comics and educational comics in general.


Critical Reception 


Generally, this comic has been well-received by both the scientific community and laypeople alike. Ottaviani was invited to speak at Bohr's institute in Copenhagen after the second edition of Suspended in Language was published.




  1. http://www.gt-labs.com/suspended.html
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Ottaviani
  3. http://www.sequentialtart.com/archive/oct04/jottaviani.shtml
  4. http://www.comicsreporter.com/index.php/resources/interviews/2253/ 


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