Gorgeous Science Images

I am a dedicated aficionado of still photography and derive deep aesthetic pleasure from well-crafted images. Thus, one of my favorite moments each year is the announcement of top entries to the Nikon Small World competition for best scientific images. This year’s crop offers the expected array of stunning photography and blazingly colorful pictures of (mostly microscopic) scientific subjects.

The first-place winner was Jonas King of Vanderbilt University for his photomicrograph of a mosquito heart (did you even know mosquitoes had hearts?). Stained with a green fluorescent dye, the muscle fibers are reminiscent of a Henri Matisse painting and would surely stand alone on a gallery wall as a nonrepresentational work of modern art.

The second- and third-place winners were confocal images of various zebrafish parts (head and olfactory bulbs, to be specific). There are nice links to the underlying scientific techniques for those interested in more than the purely visual delight.

Most of the images rely on fluorescence to enhance the striking colors and patterns of nature. One that doesn’t is a 10X monotone micrograph of a wasp nest, which is hauntingly beautiful in its crisp simplicity.

My favorite is an image of one of biomedicine’s iconic cell lines—HeLa—derived from the cervical cancer of Henrietta Lacks, whose story was beautifully told in a recent best seller by Rebecca Skloot. The picture is a vivid micrograph of the cells caught in the act of telophase (cell division). No modesty allowed in scientific imagery!


Posted In: Education | Technology

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