Friday, September 26, 2008

Science as Art

With the turmoil of the financial markets making the headlines, good news can be difficult to find. This gem, however, deserves to be seen. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the journal Science, created the International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge to celebrate the tradition of enlightenment through illustration. "Some of science’s most powerful statements are not made in words. From the diagrams of Da Vinci to Rosalind Franklin’s x-rays, visualization of research has a long and literally illustrious history." NSF Challenge Synopsis. The Challenge honors scientists who use artistic mediums to enhance appreciation and understanding of scientific research. Monica M. Bradford, executive editor of Science said, "Science and NSF instituted this international competition to reward scientists for using visualization techniques to demonstrate the beauty and wonder of science."
The competition is in its sixth year, and there are five categories: photography, illustration, informational graphics, interactive media, and non-interactive media. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, yet some of these "pictures" rendered me speechless. The competition winners can be appreciated here, enjoy.

Imaged are two of my favorites. The first is called Visualizing the Bible. From the description on NSF's site: "Each bar on the graph along the bottom represents a chapter of the Bible; the bar length corresponds to the number of verses in the passage. The rainbowlike arcs represent references from a chapter in one book to a chapter in another." The second is called String Vibrations, it is a photograph of a cotton string attached to a tiny motor. The photographer forced an atypical torque in the string and the exposure lasted for two seconds. Make sure you see, "Mad Hatter's Tea" From Alice's Adventures in a Microscopic Wonderland and The Glass Forest.

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