Unknown Pleasures


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Contact: F.X.Timmes
my one page vitae,
full vitae,
research statement, and
teaching statement.

I knew the album cover art was a pulsar plot by the time I started graduate school in 1988 in astronomy and astrophsyics at UC Santa Cruz, and I started searching. The style of the plot told me it was likely made in the early-to-mid 1970's when such plots were popular. I thought I finally found the original in 1993 when I saw the green-white plot in "The Nature of Pulsars" by Jerry Ostriker, Scientific American 224, #1, Jan 1971, page 53 during a serendipitous perusal at the UC Santa Cruz science library. I was wrong. Adam Capriola did a deeper investigation into the origin of the plot, with the ultimate backtrace being completed by Jen Christiansen in her splendid 2015 Scientific American article Pop Culture Pulsar: Origin Story of Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures Album Cover. Hurray Jen!

Unknown Pleasures
Craft's thesis plot
Ostriker's Sci Am article

The cover art for Joy Division's 1979 album "Unknown Pleasures" was originally published as a black-on-white science plot by Harold Craft in his 1970 PhD thesis "Radio observations of the pulse profiles and dispersion measures of twelve pulsars". It shows 80 successive pulses of the first pulsar observed, CP1919, tastefully stacked on top of one another. The plot was subsequently reproduced as the green-white image in Ostriker's article, and then as a white-on-black image in Walter Herdeg's 1974 "Graphis Diagrams: The Graphic Visualization of Abstract Data", and then in the black-on-white style in Simon Mitton's editing of the 1977 edition of "The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Astronomy".

Click image to get a rendition in glorious vector graphics. Modify at will.