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  • Top images, transforming technologies

Nov 2006
Caren B. Les

Winning images in the 2006 Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge take viewers into unfamiliar territory through innovative technological approaches. Now in its fourth year, the contest is jointly sponsored by the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Va., and the journal Science, which is published by the Washington-based American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Judges awarded prizes for 14 images and multimedia presentations that create outstanding visual impact, while imparting an original view of research results or scientific phenomena. Evaluation criteria included accuracy and the creative use of technologies in photography, illustration, informational graphics, and interactive and noninteractive multimedia categories. Winning entries can be seen in the Sept. 22 issue of Science, at and at

The nine-minute wordless animation “Body Code” tied for first place in the noninteractive media group, showing the active microworld within our bodies, from molecules to cells to tissues and organs. It was made by scientific animator Drew Berry of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Australia, by time-lapse imaging professional Jeremy Pickett-Heaps at the University of Melbourne, and by independent sound artist François Tétaz. Time-lapse footage, along with data from x-ray crystallography and electromagnetic tomography, was used to create the film, in which viewers can see a protein receptor sticking out of a cell’s surface, waiting for a messenger protein to attach itself. When that event occurs, the receptor is seen transmitting a message into the cell, triggering it to divide.

“Cockroach Portrait” by David Yager at the University of Maryland, College Park, took second place in the photography category. Yager laid a dead 2-cm-long Cuban banana cockroach, Panchlora nivea, on a bed of glass beads and took multiple snapshots at various depths of field through a dissecting microscope, focusing on different parts of the insect’s head. He lit the face from various angles with three light tubes. Using Automontage image-processing software, he merged 12 frames to create the final rendering.

For their work “An Egyptian Child Mummy,” radiologists Robert Cheng, W. Paul Brown and Rebecca Fahrig at Stanford University in California, and Christof Reinhart of Volume Graphics GmbH in Heidelberg, Germany, won first place in the photography division. To penetrate the mystery of a 2000-year-old Egyptian mummy, the radiologists employed a CT scanner from Siemens Medical Solutions to generate 60,000 2-D scans of the intact mummy. Computers running graphics software used the scans to create a 3-D model of the mummy and its interior. Data analysis revealed the remains of a 4- or 5-year-old-girl, probably from a well-to-do family. Because no signs of trauma or long-term illness were evident, the researchers believe that she may have died from an infectious disease.

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