The 8 best scientific images, videos and visualizations of the year


POpSci publishers are passionate about sharing how exciting science can be, from cutting-edge technologies to the fundamentals that explain how our world works. But science is not only exciting; it's so beautiful. To celebrate this beauty, Popular science and the National Science Foundation associates each year to research the best scientific visualizations.

This year's Vizzies awards feature fresh (and colorful) illustration of how gravity works and a video of the moving human brain. You will also become familiar with mosquito bites and observe the overwhelming conclusion of a physics experiment imagined centuries ago. These and four other laureates were selected from hundreds of applications by a panel of scientists, graphic designers and other experts. To make the final editing, a video or illustration had to be visually striking and convey scientific concepts in a clear and convincing way.

Keep reading and find out what the judges saw in this year's beautiful science collection.


Visualization of the congruence of scissors

Winner of the choice of experts

Several years ago, Dmitriy Smirnov was sitting in an advanced mathematics course in college when he learned a principle that required being shared by a wider audience. "If you have two polygons – two shapes – that have the same surface, you can cut one out into a finite number of pieces, and then glue them together to form the other shape," Smirnov said today. doctoral candidate in computer science. at MIT, explains.

This idea is known as the Wallace-Bolyai-Gerwien theorem. It is a basic principle of computer geometry, a field used in architecture, robotics and molecular biology. Smirnov and his collaborators created an interactive interface that "allows anyone to prove the theorem by itself" by breaking down and gathering the shapes in front of you. "We saw that this theorem was something that could be understood and appreciated by anyone," says Smirnov. "You often hear that" mathematics is beautiful, "and seeing a particular visual example is really cool."

Discover the interactive here.


Earth Day 1970 – 2018: Changes in the sea

Winner of the choice of experts

Vivian Trakinski, executive producer; Laura Moustakerski, scriptwriter / producer; Shay Krasinski, facilitator; Jason Morfoot, sound design; Jeremy Jackson and Ana Porzecanski, Scientific Advisers

The seas of the world are so deep and so vast that they may seem like a world apart, but few of their waters, even the most remote, have remained intact in our human civilizations. This video, created by the American Museum of Natural History in honor of Earth Day, provides an overview of the changes that have occurred in the ocean since the celebration of this festival in 1970.

"We tend to treat it like a dump, and since people do not live in the ocean, they do not necessarily see what we're doing," says Laura Moustakerski, writer and producer at the museum, working on the video .

In recent decades, the ocean has absorbed most of the excess heat from our greenhouse gas emissions, as well as 150 million tons of plastic. The sea level has started to rise as corals disappear and overfishing threatens our seafood stocks. But there is still hope. "There are certainly things we can do to help the oceans," said Mustakerski. The video highlights some success stories and how each of us can contribute to a better future.


Pascal's barrel

Winner of the choice of experts

By Katerina Visnjic, Lance Herrington, Omelan Stryzak, Rick Soden, Julio Lopez, William Ten, Dan Quiyu, Lisa Jackson and Janine Nunes

Legend has it that nearly 400 years ago, the mathematician Blaise Pascal realized an explosive experience: standing on top of a building, he poured water through a thin tube into a Wooden barrel already filled with water until it bursts. This story illustrates Pascal's law, according to which the pressure in a fluid depends on the height of the fluid, but not on its total weight.

Yet when Princeton University physicist Katerina Visnjic decided to recreate the barrel destruction experiment, she could not find any evidence that anyone (including Pascal himself) actually performed it. . She and her colleagues filmed their own version, with a 50-liter glass carafe and a 155-foot straw. The pot shattered after the team poured only 1 liter of water into the tube. "It is very possible that we are the first group in history to experience this," says Visnjic. "It's such a beautiful counter-intuitive demonstration of how fluids behave in nature."

It may seem odd that such a quantity of liquid could destroy such a large ship. But the pressure at the bottom of the straw was the same overwhelming force that you would encounter if you dive to a depth of 155 feet in the ocean.


Anatomy of the bite

Winner of the choice of experts

Mosquitoes are among the deadliest animals in the world, responsible for millions of deaths each year according to the World Health Organization. In "Anatomy of the bite", Rebecca Konte illustrates how they pierce your skin and transmit dangerous diseases.

Hours spent scrutinizing mosquitoes under a microscope left some surprises to the San Francisco-based biological artist. "Mosquitoes have a very strange anatomy," says Konte. "It's very complex when you get close, and compact, because they're small, so everything is fucked at the same time."

In fact, a mosquito can actually extract extra liquids from its abdomen to make room for more blood while it feeds on you. Konte also learned that the proboscites used by mosquitoes to pierce the skin consist of not one, but six needles. "They have different jobs," says Konte. "Some needles sting and rummage, others sting through your skin and everything is held under a sheath that tears when you bite the skin."


In search of the secrets of the earth

Winner of the choice of experts

By ScienceMedia.nl (Saskia Madlener, Dan Brinkhuis, Dick Peterse and Ageeth Rademaker), Consortium for Oceans Leadership, International Ocean Discovery Program and Columbia University (US Science Support Program – Sharon Cooper)

Buried at the bottom of the oceans, you will find a story of the history of our planet written in rock and mud. The cores of long, thin sediments extracted from deep-sea boreholes contain remnants of bygone eras and evidence of past calamities, such as the ashes resulting from the asteroid strike that ended the dinosaur reign there were 66 million years.

"Just thinking about the vast amount of information at the bottom of the sea is astounding," says Saskia Madlener, director and screenwriter at ScienceMedia, a Dutch video company that communicates science to the public.

Madlener and her team created "In Search of the Secrets of the Earth" as part of a traveling exhibition on scientific ocean drilling that has been organized by several institutions, including the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. While the video is playing, animated sediment cores glide through the image to give a glimpse of what scientists are looking at in the Earth's past. Madlener hopes the video will inspire people to support earth science research. "There is still a lot to discover."


Visited severity

Public Choice Winner

In Gravity Visualized 1 and 2, high school student Arjun Hausner used beads to illustrate a force we encounter every day. Gravity is caused by a massive deformation of the space that surrounds it, a phenomenon described by Albert Einstein in his famous theory of general relativity. Devices called gravity wells can mimic this curvature and are often found in scientific museums. Generally, you drop a penny in the funnel and watch it spin before falling to the center.

Hausner goes even further in this concept by using painted marbles and an elastic fabric stretched over a trampoline frame with weights in the center. Like every marble spiral around and around, it traces a unique path. These tracks become close to weight, to "capture the gravity pattern," says Hausner.

Playing with scientific ideas in art class has made them easier to understand, says Hausner, now a student at Cornell University. "Science and art are very similar in many ways because they both involve a process of observing the natural world and then transcribing it into another format that provides this information."


Muscles and nerves of a developing lizard

Public Choice Winner

This gecko embryo is actually a panorama of 12,000 images taken from all angles under the microscope, each representing a tiny piece of an entire embryo stained with fluorescent dyes. At 12 days of development, building blocks of muscles and nerves (visible in red and white) began to form. "The beauty of such an image is that something as small as this small embryo that has been developing for such a short time already has a lot of complexity," says Daniel Smith-Paredes, PhD Candidate in Anatomy compared to Yale University.

By examining how animals thrive in the form of embryos and comparing this process between different species, scientists can find clues as to how lizards, birds, and other animals have evolved to from their ancestors, today fossilized. Smith-Paredes hopes the image "will spark some curiosity about how things are built and how we have evolved."


Coupled movements of the brain and blood circulation

Public Choice Winner

By Kambiz Nael (Mount Sinai), Itamar Terem (Stanford), Mehmet Kurt (Stevens), Samantha Holdsworth (Auckland U) and John Martinez (Stevens)

Your brain constantly beats with movement. As your heart pumps, your noggin's blood vessels dilate and contract, gently pushing on the brain tissue around them. These movements are too subtle for you to feel. In fact, it is only recently that scientists have been able to observe them in action.

To create the video above, the researchers used a computer algorithm that exaggerates brain movements during MRI exams until they are visible to the naked eye. For the first time, they also synchronized the movements of brain tissue with those of veins and arteries (also exaggerated).

The researchers hope that the new imaging method could reveal whether aneurysms – weak points in blood vessels that swell and sometimes rupture – develop and even predict whether they are likely to rupture. "We want to be able to follow these tiny movements and, hopefully, get an idea of ​​how the stability of aneurysms is changing over time," said Mehmet Kurt, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology. He and his team will present the technique this month at the Biomedical Engineering Society meeting in Atlanta.