# Tattoos and Kolmogorov Complexity

My wife is still suffering pain from the new tattoo that she got a few days ago. She was a little more enthusiastic about her second and she got one on her leg about the size of a piece of Wonder bread, and it has a lot of fill (her first is about the size of a nickel, if that gives you some context). Incidentally, it is beautiful and totally fits her character.

Ever since her first tattoo, though, she has been bugging me to get a tattoo. First it was her name, then the appeals to get something “sciencey,” and finally, of course, to get something in binary (her name in binary, in fact). I can tell you right now that I will never get a tattoo in binary digits. In fact, my tendency to overengineer will probably prevent me from ever getting a tattoo at all, because I’d want it to be “perfect.” I’d die with this thing on my body, after all.

This got me thinking about the complexity of tattoos, and whether it’s desirable to design a tattoo with a complexity much higher than its Kolmogorov complexity. I could see it both ways: on one hand, it may be desirable to have an attractive pattern, especially one that’s self-similar, while on the other, it would be kind of silly to write a small sentence in binary ASCII (I’m sure there are some). I was kind of disappointed, however, when a Google image search turned up nothing for “Kolmogorov tattoo.”

Maybe I should get this tattooed on my body: “The smallest positive integer not definable in under eleven words.”

### 4 responses to “Tattoos and Kolmogorov Complexity”

1. This would be a pretty cool Kolmogorov tat: http://mathdl.maa.org/images/upload_library/1/Portraits/Kolmogorov_6.jpg

Although, people may start thinking you have ties to the Russian mob.

• Or the Russian mob would say, “hey! Free PhD student!”

2. So here’s some tattoos from that emporium that I think qualify for the “Kolmogorov” category:

A lisp program to generate the Fibonacci sequence:
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/science-tattoo-emporium/?nggpage=19&pid=147

And my favorite, the continued fraction for the golden ratio:
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/science-tattoo-emporium/?nggpage=6&pid=1