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The art of science

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Laura S. Marshall,

Seeing science – actually seeing it, instead of reading or talking about it – can lead to deeper understanding of the forces, processes and phenomena that govern our universe. And science can be just as beautiful hanging on a wall as any Monet or van Gogh print.

The 2011 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge honored recipients who use visual media specifically to promote understanding of scientific research; the winning entries appeared in the Feb. 3 issue of Science, which held the competition in conjunction with the US National Science Foundation.

This microscopic image of trichomes on the skin of an immature cucumber under 8003 magnification received an honorable mention in the photography category. The trichomes help cucumbers protect themselves against most herbivores. Courtesy of Dr. Robert Rock Belliveau.
The annual event, now in its ninth year, showcases spectacular photographs, illustrations, graphics, videos and interactive games that engage viewers by conveying the complex substance of science through arts. Judging criteria for the 212 entries, which came from 33 countries, included visual impact, effective communication, freshness and originality.

The competition moved online this year: Participants could enter online, and judges could view materials electronically. The general public got involved in the voting process, with the fan favorite photo receiving the People’s Choice award. Entries also could be shared and promoted on Facebook and Twitter.

The winning images for 2011 spanned the realm of science, including a computer illustration depicting the emergence of structure in the universe over 240 million light years; “Foldit,” a multiplayer online computer game puzzle that allows users to bend and fold amino acids into realistic proteins and solve the problem of protein folding; and a movie that shows a novel 3-D model view of a whole cell in minute detail and presents complex biological data visually for a general audience.

“The talent of these award winners is remarkable,” said Monica M. Bradford, the journal’s executive editor. Science is published by AAAS, the nonprofit international science society. “These winners communicate science in a manner that not only captures your attention but in many instances strives to look at different ways to solve scientific problems through their varied art forms.”

To see the winners, visit

Mar 2012
artBiophotonicscucumbergraphicsillustrationsimaginginteractive gamesInternational Science and Engineering Visualization ChallengeLaura MarshallphotographsPost ScriptsRobert Rock BelliveauscienceUS National Science Foundationvideos

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