Fractals, Parasites and 3-D Reconstructions: 18 Startling Science Images
Czech "Science Is Beautiful" photo and illustration competition explores the wondrous worlds discovered via scientific investigation
Credits: Jan Martinek
"LANDING": A female red-veined darter,
Sympetrum fonscolombii, pulls up her leggy landing gear and "brakes" with her wings to pause on a twig. This photograph was the first place winner of the "Scientific Photography" category in 2010; it was taken with a Canon 7D camera. The photographer was selected as a judge for the 2011 competition. Martin Černý
"BIOPROTECTOR": At 0.6 millimeter across,
Typhlodromus pyri is a fierce predatory mite that hunts other kinds of mites. One female T. pyri can kill hundreds of red spider mites during her lifetime. Viktor Sýkora took the photograph using a scanning electron microscope, then colorized the image in Adobe Photoshop. Viktor Sýkora
No, you're not seeing stars. This is a common liver fluke, a parasite in the duck intestine. Its cell nuclei have been illuminated with a fluorescent molecular marker. The most concentrated bright spots are located in the fluke's reproductive organs. Jana Bulantová
CALUMMA AMBER": The C. amber chameleon—whose scales shift in hue from lemon to turquoise—comes from Madagascar and was discovered in 2006. Jiří Bálek photographed one a year later in the island nation's Amber Mountain National Park. Jiří Bálek Advertisement
"A PYGMY CHAMELEON": This just-hatched bearded pygmy chameleon,
Rieppeleon brevicaudatus, may someday outsize the matchstick it's perched on—but just barely. Adults grow to a scant five centimeters in length. Petr Šípek
"SECOND DEVIL'S BIT": Here the photographer presents two images of one subject. In "Second Devil's Bit," the focal point is a perennial plant known as devil's–bit scabious or
Scabiosa columbaria. The image on the left was made with a light microscope using real colors; the accompanying image was created using an electron microscope and subsequently colorized. Viktor Sýkora
"A LITTLE SCORPION": The dragonlike form visible in this image is actually the fruit of a prickly scorpion's–tail plant,
Scorpiurus muricatus. The photo—taken using a stereomicroscope with illumination in a dark field—received first place in the category "Scientific Microphotography." Viktor Sýkora
"WARDITE": This maplike surface with its lagoons of green and mustard-colored highways is actually an image of the mineral wardite. The image received second place in the category, "Scientific Photography."
Roman Zaremba Advertisement
"A CHICKEN": The subject of the photograph is actually a study aid whose colorized cartilage offers an anatomy lesson. The photograph gives viewers a chance to marvel at the delicate architecture within a young chick.
"FOUR MONKEYS": The whimsically titled image actually shows a cross-section of a reed plant. The large green-ringed cells belong to the phloem, a vascular tissue that transports the sugars created by photosynthesis. The reddish veins represent another type of vascular tissue known as xylem, which carries water and minerals from the roots up through the plant.
"LACE": The mineral olivine, when viewed under an optical microscope, becomes a collage of colorful lines and patterns. In this image you can spot the stone's veins and grains—some beginning to corrode.
"AN ORANGE-BREASTED FALCON": This digital painting of
Falco deiroleucus, a species found in South and Central America, shows off the raptor's beautifully patterned plumage. Silvie Lišková Advertisement
"GENESIS VITAE": This painting depicts a fully formed human fetus in a mother's womb. The watercolor depiction of life's beginning placed second in the category "Scientific Illustration."
"A RED-BREASTED TOUCAN": This jovial toucan, a depiction of
Ramphastos dicolorus, received first place in the "Scientific Illustration" category. The artist used felt-tip pen and watercolor to paint the bird, then touched up the image via Gimp software. Karel Cettl
"WAVE FUNCTION": This kaleidoscopic image is actually a wave function, which illustrates the locational probabilities of an excited subatomic particle. The particle is more likely to be in the red areas than in the green; it is least likely to be in the black spaces. Using other particles or magnetic and electric fields, the area can be manipulated into different shapes—in this case, a heartlike shape called a cardioid.
"AN OSTRACOD": This 3-D reconstruction reveals the many sides of an ostracod,
Eucypris virens. Strong x-ray photographs from 1,500 angles and four distances combined to create a virtual reconstruction of this tiny crustacean, a mere one millimeter in size. Libor Mořkovský Advertisement
"FRACTAL MANDELBULB": With details that would make a Gothic cathedral look plain by comparison, it's hard to believe this model is based on a simple mathematical formula. This 3-D analogue to the famous Mandelbrot set was discovered in 2009. The image won first place in the category "Virtual Nature."
"UNITED CELLS OF ARABIDOPSIS": The dizzying array of color is a microscopic look at the epidermal cells of a plant known as the mouse-ear cress , or
Arabidopsis thaliana, a popular model organism in biology. Chloroplasts, pores and cytoskeletons stand out, thanks to fluorescing proteins. The image took the grand prize. Ondřej Šebesta Advertisement