Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Science Visualization Winners

Science Magazine recently announced the award winners of their International Science and Engineering 2011 Visualization Challenge, recognizing art that portrays phenomena that can't be seen by the naked eye.

One of the finalists in the illustration category was "Tumor Death — Cell Receptors on Breast Cancer Cell" by Emiko Paul. Science magazine says that Paul deliberately designed the image to look like something from a Lovecraft novel or a horror movie:
"This image, modeled using 3D software then painted in Adobe Photoshop, depicts the war on cancer in a manner that makes clear who the bad guys are. Paul drew on microscopic images of breast cancer cells—seen here looking like creatures with long tentacles—for inspiration. But her illustration also depicts a possible weapon against these malignant tissues: an antibody developed by researchers at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, called TRA-8 (the green, globular structures)."

Another finalist was Joel Brehm's "Variable-Diameter Carbon Nanotubes." These tiny structures are far too small to see with the naked eye or even to photograph under a microscope, so the image is entirely constructed. Science reports:
"The tricky part, Brehm says, was making the nanotubes look small even though they'd been blown up to poster size. To do that, he added a granular texture to the honeycombed stalks and also brightened their edges. Those small touches, he says, made the tubes look more like objects viewed through an electron microscope."
Science Magazine's Illustration winners
More on Joel Brehm 


Gregory Lee said...

I don't like these pictures, though they're attractive. They seem dishonest, to me. They depict something purported to be real, but actually, the artist just imagined them.

I've also noticed in the last decade in science documentaries on TV, an increasing tendency to jumble together actual photographs or films with simulations, without labeling the simulations as such. Science is supposed to be true, not people making up nice seeming stories. I don't like that truth line to be crossed.

James Gurney said...

Gregory, You raise a really interesting point, one that was nagging a bit at the back of my brain, too. To be fair, these particular images may have been labeled as simulations where they originally appeared, I don't know.

But when you get into astronomy and the micro world, it's getting hard to know what's "real." How about those cosmic Hubble photos. I assume there's some long exposures and maybe false color going on, but what else? What happens when people start overlaying and compressing photo-derived imagery to bring things closer or to punch them up? And those glamour "photos" in the fashion magazines are often heavily shopped. Advanced imaging and CGI have completely goofed with our sense of what's real, and it's hard to even define the boundary line between reality and simulation.

SoarsLikeAnEagle said...

Great comments James G. and Greg L. I art it is interesting that in order for something to look real you have simplify and in some cases exagerate certain features or charecteristics in order to be seen as true to life. Some times in order to appear true to life you cannot record everything, but sum up what you see as structuraly important.

desembrey said...

I have some Beehive Ginger plants growing in my garden. The resemblance of these structures to the Beehive Ginger flower is remarkable.