Colors applied with Photoshop reveal the interlocking crystals that form the choppers of Arbacia punctulata. The biomineral crystals, captured by biophysicists from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, grow and intertwine to reinforce and sharpen a sea urchin's teeth. Made of calcite, which is also found in limestone and seashells, the crystals are tough enough to grind holes in rocks to create shelters.
"These winners continue to amaze me every year," said Monica M. Bradford, executive editor of the journal Science, in a statement. "The visuals are not only novel and captivating, but they also draw you into the complex field of science in a simple and understandable way."
Sponsored by Science and the National Science Foundation (NSF), the international competition honors recipients who use visual media to promote understanding of scientific research. Judging criteria included visual impact, effective communication, freshness, and originality. (See some of the 2011 winners.)
—Lacey Gray and Katia Andreassi
Image courtesy Pupa U.P.A. Gilbert and Christopher E. Killian, U.W. Madison via Science/AAAS
Colors signal neural connections modeled after the brain functions of a macaque. The swirling design of a cognitive computer, created by an IBM research group, won first place for illustrations. Wiring diagrams like this may one day lead to computers that "think."
Illustration courtesy E. McQuinn, P. Datta, M. Flickner, W. Risk, and D. Modha, IBM Research - Almaden via Science/AAAS
A Tumor’s Deadly Reach
An MRI reveals the fiber pathways, known as white matter, of a person's brain—as well as a malignant tumor. Computer scientists produced the image to map danger areas for surgeons: Red fibers risk damage when the tumor is removed; blue fibers are out of harm's way. The lifesaving image won the people's choice award for illustrations.
Image courtesy M. Chamberland, D. Fortin, and M. Descoteaux, Sherbrooke Connectivity Imaging Lab via Science/AAAS
This 3-D CT scan of a clam and a whelk snug in their protective homes won an honorable mention in photography for radiologist Kai-hung Fung. The image, commissioned as a backdrop for a marine-themed musical, shows two types of mollusk self-defense. The clam (left) can snap its shell shut to defend against threats while the whelk (right) retreats inside its strong spiral shell. (Watch a time-lapse video of a clam using its foot to dig.)
Image courtesy Kai-hung Fung and Pamela Youde, Nethersole Eastern Hospital via Science/AAAS
This revealing look at the intricacies of plant life won an honorable mention in the photography category for a team from Charles University and Czech Technical University in Prague. Two views—high-resolution, high-contrast x-rays (left) and microscopy (right)—illuminate the tiny seeds, which are less than three millimeters across. (See pictures of "otherworldly" seeds.)
Image courtesy Viktor Sykora, Charles University, and Jan Zemlicka, Frantisek Krejci, and Jan Jakubek, Czech Technical University, via Science/AAAS