First Place, Photography: "Save Our Earth, Let’s Go Green"
Fibers cradle a planet-like ball in an award-winning image meant to convey that Earth's future is in our collective hands.
Harvard University's Sung Hoon Kang submerged tiny plastic fibers—each only 1/500 as big as a human hair—in an evaporating liquid, where they spontaneously and cooperatively supported the small green ball.
"Using the image, I tried to describe cooperative efforts across the world to save our Earth by going green," Hoon said.
The winners will be announced in tomorrow's issue of Science.
Image courtesy Sung Hoon Kang, Boaz Pokroy, and Joanna Aizenberg, Harvard University
Honorable Mention, Photography: "Flower Power"
Mother Nature isn't the power behind these flowers—the colorful arrangements are actually composed of several soft polymer pillars used to measure the traction strength of cells, such as those that close wounds.
A fierce battle between the forces of surface adhesion and pillar stiffness threw the pillars against one another, forming accidental "flowers" that were imaged via a scanning electron microscope.
Want fries with that? This 3-D digital-composite picture provides a stomach-turning look at the future of overfished oceans by hitting people where they feel it most: in their guts.
"Unfortunately the primary way we relate to the oceans is through the appetite," said marine scientist Jennifer Jacquet of the University of British Columbia, who with Clarkson University digital artist Dave Beck created the image honored in the 2009 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.
Clarkson noted that warmer oceans may swarm with jellyfish—which can thrive in warm waters—even as the seas are emptied of other species.
Greenish stain reveals the plant's pollen—both inside the plant's pistil (center), which leads down to the ovary, and on six anthers, which produce the pollen and are shown growing toward the pistil's sticky opening.
Polarized light from the microscope turns the typically white flower a fetching shade of yellow, helping the image earn an honorable mention in the 2009 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.
Arabidopsis thaliana isn't the only plant to self-fertilize, but it's the first to have its entire genome sequenced.
Image courtesy Heiti Paves and Birger Ilau, Tallinn University of Technology
Honorable Mention, Photography: "Microbe vs. Mineral"
A life-and-death struggle fueled by a simple drop of water is captured in a photograph by Michael Zach at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Zach brought microbes to life by adding water to a salt sample he had found near Death Valley, thus dissolving the sample's crystals.
As the water evaporated, crystals began to reform, creating the prism-like colors captured in this winning picture from the 2009 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.
But the desert-dwelling microbes were able to survive by excreting molecules that helped prevent crystal growth—an adaptation that allows the microbes to escape a salty death trap.
Image courtesy Michael P. Zach, University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point
Honorable Mention, Illustration: "Back to the Future"
Created at the Second University of Naples in Italy, "Back to the Future" illustrates the principles of biomimeticism—the idea that nature’s creations can guide the design of future technology.
Computer-generated drawings of future solar panels, 10 feet (3 meters) tall and 165 feet (50 meters) across, stand behind the organisms that inspired them—the microscopic marine algae known as Licmophora flabellata.
Shown attached to sand grains in a scanning electron microscope image, these biological solar collectors have a flat, wedgelike form and a glasslike wall—features that allow them to absorb as much sunlight as possible for photosynthesis.
Image courtesy Mario De Stefano, Antonia Auletta, and Carla Langella, Second University of Naples
First Place, Illustration: "Branching Morphogenesis"
An art installation (detail pictured above) made of 75,000 looped cable ties, or zip ties, represents a network of forces created by human lung cells when, while forming capillaries, the lung cells push and pull on the protein matrix surrounding them.
Created at the University of Pennsylvania's Sabin Jones Lab Studio, "Branching Morphogenesis" includes five vertical, 11.5-foot-tall (3.5-meter-tall), interconnected layers of the ties—each representing a sequential point in time—which allows humans to explore a biological "datascape" of blood vessel formation.
"We hope to convey the inherent beauty of this secret world outside the cell that dictates how genes, and thus cells, behave," said molecular biologist Peter Lloyd Jones, noting that the construct also suggests possible architectural applications.
"Extraordinary and unexpected aesthetic qualities occurred as we put this together," Jones added.
Image courtesy Peter Lloyd Jones, Andrew Lucia, Annette Fierro, and Jenny E. Sabin, University of Pennsylvania
First Place, Noninteractive Media: "Follow the Money"
Everyone knows it pays to follow the money, but no one has visualized the process quite like Christian Thiemann and Daniel Grady of Northwestern University.
Using data from the website Where's George?, the team mapped the flow of cash across the United States and revealed how people move throughout the country.
Their video (a frame of which is pictured) shows the behavioral boundaries of many communities, which don’t always match administrative borders. Such studies of human movement could also shed light on the spread of disease and the origins of local dialects.
Image courtesy Christian Thiemann and Daniel Grady, Northwestern University
First Place, Illustration: "Kuen's Surface"
A computer-generated picture by Richard Palais and Luc Benard of the University of California, Irvine, imagines a "pseudosphere" called Kuen's surface as an equation, a drawing, and a glass sculpture.
Nineteenth century Russian mathematician Nikolai Lobachevsky, who studied ancient Greek mathematician Euclid's five parallel postulates, found that one of the postulates can't be proved by Euclid's other axioms.
Lobachevsky's work sparked the development of pseudospheres like Kuen's surface, as well as other non-Euclidian geometries, which made possible breakthroughs such as Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
Image courtesy Richard Palais and Luc Benard, University of California, Irvine