The coolest science images of 2013
The Why Files has chosen the ten winners of its Cool Science Image contest. From zebrafish neurons to slime mold, these are the coolest science images of the year.
ZEBRAFISH NEURONAL NETWORK: This is the neuronal network in the tail fin of a live zebrafish embryo magnified 40 times. A green fluorescent molecule makes these neurons visible. To make this image, different planes of focus and fields of view were stitched together using special imaging software, culminating in a large and intricate web-like network of nerves in a live animal.
(Pui-ying Lam, graduate student, Cellular & Molecular Biology)
BRAIN IMAGE: This view of a monkeys brain shows structure and neural pathways covered with myelin (white matter). The image was produced using diffusion tensor imaging. Red indicates a pathway connecting medial and lateral regions; green-labeled pathways connect posterior and anterior brain regions; blue ones enable inferior and superior areas to communicate. This fine-grained resolution required a 40-hour scan in a high magnetic field.
(Christopher Coe, faculty, Psychology Department)
MIDDLE EARTH: Slime mold has a foot in two worlds, macroscopic and microscopic. When conditions are favorable, they roam around under our feet as single-celled amoebae, hunting and eating bacteria. When food gets scarce, they become social, forming flash mobs that morph into multicellular organisms like those shown here. Both the amoebic form and the spore form of these benign creatures may one day prove useful in our ongoing quest to overcome bacterial pathogens.
(Sheryl A. Rakowski, staff, Bacteriology Department)
AIR SEA INTERACTION: This image from October 28, 2012 shows the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere and sea surface temperatures. Super storm Sandy can be seen off the East coast of the United States as she strengthened due to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Moist air rises over warm water, seen in orange and red, and provides the fuel necessary to strengthen tropical storms. As storms pass over colder waters, seen in blues and greens, tropical storms begin to weaken do to the lack of energy-laden moist air rising from the sea surface.
(Rick Kohrs, staff, Space Science and Engineering Center)
TRICHOMES: This image depicts multiple stages of hair, or trichome, growth on a very young leaf. The shape of a trichome varies by species. Here, multiple stages of growth are visible. This image was taken using a water vapor-based imaging system. Typically, images like this are taken using preserved material brushed in gold leaf. Using water vapor reduces the time required to get the image.
(Emily Kief, undergraduate student, Botany Department)
HOODIA: The center of a Hoodia flower is shown here. The flower is native to South Africa and Namibia. It is a succulent plant from family Apocynaceae and used in several botany courses for teaching aspects of plant geography and convergent evolution.
(Dr. Mo Fayyaz, faculty, Botany Department)
LUNARIA ANNUA commonly known as money plant for its silvery seed pods, is unique because of its translucent fruiting structures (botanically: silicles) that allow the developing seeds to be observed. The ovules (seeds) are attached to the placenta in the ovary through a structure known as the funiculus, the plant equivalent of an umbilical cord. At maturity, the valves on the side open up, the seeds fall away, but the papery thin septum in the middle (the money) remains on the stalk throughout the winter.
(Kata Dosa, graduate student, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies)
ZnO FALL FLOWERS: These are nanoflowers made of zinc oxide (ZnO), an important semiconductor in the electronics industry. Zinc oxide usually grows in a rod shape but on alumina, the same oxide that you can see on aluminum foil, it grows into flake and flower shapes. This image was taken by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), which means that electrons bounce back to a detector after hitting the sample surface the same way light bounces back to our eyes after hitting objects around us so we can see them. These images are black and white so it was false-colored to highlight the flowers.
(Audrey Forticaux, graduate student, Chemistry Department)
AUTOMERIS [pain in the] BANUS: The larval form of the moth Automeris banus rests on a branch in Palenque National Park, Mexico, after releasing large amounts of toxins into the unsuspecting hand of a human researcher. The field biologist miraculously survived, and subsequently snapped this image with her rapidly swelling hand. This species of moth can be observed in tropical rain forests across southeastern Mexico, Central America, and South America.
(Peggy Boone, graduate student, Zoology Department)
BETA CATENIN (CTNNB1) plays an important role during prostate cancer in humans and mice. In transgenic mice, where CTNNB1 is induced in the prostate, a cluster of cells expressing high levels of beta catenin protein (red) are observed. These cells have the unique capability to alter the adjacent microenvironment by attracting other cellular layers towards it, as stained by the basal layer protein- laminin (green) and nuclei (blue). Mouse models such as this are increasingly being used to understand how CTNNB1 plays a role during normal prostate development and at the same time help to understand how these cells communicate and interact with their surrounding environment.
(Vatsal Mehta, staff, Comparative Biosciences Department)