Best science art of 2012

The natural world is filled with gorgeous creatures, strange processes and mysterious structures hidden to the naked eye. The winners of the 2012 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge, announced Thursday, make that beauty visible.



    A Cognitive Computer, Based on the Macaque Brain
    Illustration - First Place: Inspired by the neural architecture of a macaque brain, this ghostly neon swirl is the wiring diagram for a new kind of computer that, by some definitions, may soon be able to think.
    McQuinn, Wong, Datta, Flickner, Singh, Esser, Appuswamy


    Cerebral Infiltration
    Illustration - Honorable Mention and People’s Choice: A malignant brain tumor (red mass, left) of this person's brain, wreathed by fine tracts of white matter. The red fibers signal danger: If severed by the neurosurgeon's scalpel, their loss could affect the patient's vision, perception, and motor function.
    Sherbrooke Connectivity Imaging Lab


    Biomineral Single Crystals
    Photography - First Place and People's Choice: These fantastical structures are the microscopic crystals that make up a sea urchin's tooth. Each shade of blue, aqua, green, and purple--superimposed with Photoshop on a scanning electron micrograph (SEM)--highlights an individual crystal of calcite, the abundant carbonate mineral found in limestone, marble, and shells.
    University of Wisconsin, Madison


    Self Defense
    Photography - Honorable Mention: This is no shell game, but a matter of life or death. The clam (left) can snap its bivalve shell shut at the first sign of a threat. The whelk (right) has evolved another strategy: The spiral shell provides a series of barricades to potential invaders. 
    Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital


    X-ray micro-radiography and microscopy of seeds
    Photography - Honorable Mention: Furred, fringed, and barbed, these fruits with tiny seeds are each no bigger than 3 mm across. To image the seeds' fine detail, the team used high-resolution, high-contrast x-rays along with traditional microscopy.
    Charles University / Czech Technical University


    Owl Adaptations vs. Extreme Neck Rotation
    Posters & Graphics - First Place: Instead of moving their large, tubular eyes in their sockets, owls swivel their heads 270 degrees. This poster explains the likely mechanism for the eerie ability.
    Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine


    Earth Evolution: The Intersection of Geology and Biology
    Posters & Graphics - Honorable Mention: All 4.6 billion years of Earth's history are squeezed onto this poster (only a portion is shown here). The poster draws connections between biological and geological processes in Earth's history, such as mass extinctions, plate tectonics, and the greenhouse effect.
    HHMI / Astronaut 3 Media Group / Harvard University


    The Pharma Transport Town
    Posters & Graphics - People's Choice: This information graphic shows the complex transport routes of pharmaceuticals in the environment, and considers psychological influences upon drug usage and disposal. It illustrates the cyclical nature of pharmaceutical transport -- and recognizes knowledge gaps.
    European Centre for Environment and Human Health


    Velocity Raptor
    Games & Apps - Honorable Mention: This dapper green dinosaur wearing a bright blue cape is in a hurry to save the world -- in fact, she moves at nearly the speed of light. Velocity Raptor is an attempt to "give people some intuition" about the physics of special relativity by letting them play with it themselves, game designer Andy Hall says.


    CyGaMEs Selene II: A Lunar Construction GaME
    Games & Apps - Honorable Mention: In this online game geared to grade 5 - 12 students, players create their own moon with raw space materials, then pummel it with asteroids and flood it with lava. 
    Wheeling Jesuit University / California State University


    Games & Apps - People's Choice: Inspired by a game that recruits online players to discover novel ways to fold proteins, Gayatri Mehta designed Untangled, a game in which users compete to make the most compact circuit layout on a grid. The game allows her to record millions of new moves and discover human strategies for circuit design that could be employed to develop smaller, more powerful, and longer-lasting electronic devices. 
    University of North Texas


    Alya Red: A Computational Heart
    Video - First Place and People's Choice: This image is an artistic rendering of Alya Red, a new computer model of the heart that marries modern medical imaging techniques with high-powered computing. Based on MRI data, each colored strand represents linked cardiac muscle cells that transmit electrical current and trigger a model human heartbeat.
    Barcelona Supercomputing Center


    Video - Honorable Mention: The video "Fertilization" starts with 300 million sperm, following their perilous journey up the cervix and into the fallopian tube with unprecedented detail and continuity. By the time the last few dozen surviving sperm reach the egg, they're famished, troubled, and hopeful.
    Nobles Green Nucleus Medical Media


    Observing the Coral Symbiome
    Video - Honorable Mention: No dyes or digital software produced the brilliant color of these corals--the glory is all their own. Fluorescent molecules, innate to the corals and to the red algae that live inside and nourish them, shine under different wavelengths of light emitted by a confocal microscope. 
    Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology


    Revealing Invisible Changes in The World
    Video - Honorable Mention: This video shows a new method of magnifying subtle changes normally invisible to the eye. Using video as input, the team analyzes each pixel for slight variations in color over time--for example, rhythmic reddening in a man's face as blood pulses through his veins. Then they apply an algorithm that magnifies the variation, and extract the information they need. By amplifying the man's slight blush, for example, they were able to obtain his heartbeat. 
    MIT / Quanta Research
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