Tintin: mixing comics and science
In an attempt to reach a wider audience, including people who would not necessarily set out to seek to learn about physics, REINFORCE WP4 researcher, Gwenhaël de Wasseige (UCLouvain), started a collaboration with TintinImaginatio, the company set up to protect and promote the work of Hergé. As part of this collaboration, an article on the official Tintin website was produced, focussing on muography and placing it in the context of the ‘Tintin and the Cigars of the Pharaoh’ adventure. Entitled ‘Little story of infinity: when the Universe deciphers history’, the article was a neat attempt at informing members of the public about the scientific research in REINFORCE, while at the same time placing it in a context with which the readers were likely to be familiar.
The choice of Tintin was ideal, not least because one of Tintin’s great friends in his adventures is a physicist: Professor Cuthbert Calculus. In the story, Tintin befriends an eccentric Egyptologist and discovers a tomb full of mummified remains; a discovery that serves to trigger an array of adventures for the young detective and his friends. Muography, which is, of course, also at the heart of the Cosmic Muon Images REINFORCE demonstrator project, has become a successful technique in studying the internal structures of pyramids and other archaeological and natural sites. As such, ‘Tintin and the Cigars of the Pharaoh’ presented REINFORCE with a perfect opportunity to place muography within a context in which it can be ‘brought to life’ and involve a community – fans of Tintin – who otherwise might not have been aware of the science involved, as well as to invite them to participate as volunteers in the REINFORCE activities.