The 10 Best Science Images, Videos, And Visualizations Of The Year

Presenting the winners of the 2016 Vizzies

The most exciting areas of science often can't be seen with the naked eye because the phenomena are too big or too small, too slow or too fast. That's why we believe it's worth honoring those who use novel techniques—or create exceptional examples of traditional ones—to present scientific ideas visually. So, for the second year, Popular Science has teamed up with the National Science Foundation to bring you exemplars of information made beautiful. Congratulations to the winners!

How We Selected The Best

A team of experts at the National Science Foundation and Popular Science pared hundreds of submissions to 50 finalists—10 in each of the five categories. From those 50, a panel of outside experts picked five winners. Another panel of experts—that is to say, our readers—chose five People's Choice winners.

The Expert Judges

David Bolinsky, medical animator and co-founder of e.mersion studios
Martha Harbison, network content editor for the Audubon Society
Eric Klopfer, professor of science education and engineering systems at MIT
Robert Kosara, research scientist at Tableau Software
Miriam Leuchter, editor-in-chief of Popular Photography
Eleanor Lutz, designer and science illustrator behind
Heather B. McDonald, independent biologist and artist
Jan Willem Tulp, head of the data visualization studio TULP Interactive

The Winners


Expert's Choice: Walking In Color, by Daniel M. Harris and John W.M. Bush

People's Choice: American Lobster Larva, by Jesica Waller, Halley McVeigh, and Noah Oppenheim


Expert's Choice & People's Choice: Coral Bleaching: A Breakdown of Symbiosis, by Fabian de Kok-Mercado, Satoshi Amagai, Mark Nielsen, Dennis Liu, and Steve Palumbi



Expert's Choice: A Year in the Life of Earth's CO2, by Bernhard Jenny, Bojan Šavrič, Johannes Liem, William M. Putman, Kayvon Sharghi, Aaron E. Lepsch, and Patrick Lynch

Posters & Graphics

Reporting by Alexandra Ossola and Neel V. Patel

logos of national science foundation and popular science

The Vizzies are a project of the National Science Foundation and Popular Science.

This article was originally published in the March/April 2016 issue of Popular Science, under the title "The 2016 Vizzies."

a droplet bounces across a red and blue water surface

Walking In Color

Quantum physics defies physicists' intuitions. Analogies from the macroscopic world can help. [Read more.]Daniel M. Harris and John W.M. Bush
a translucent lobster larva on a black background

American Lobster Larva

This incredible photo of a three-week-old lobster larva captures all the details of the tiny organism right down to the whisper-thin hairs on its legs. The photo is one of the winners of the 2016 Vizzies, a Popular Science and National Science Foundation contest celebrating the year's best science imagery.Jesica Waller, Halley McVeigh, and Noah Oppenheim
illustration showing close-up of the surface of coral as it ejects its algae

Coral Bleaching: A Breakdown Of Symbiosis

Kaleidoscopic corals turn pale when their cells eject the algae that lives on their surfaces—a process called coral bleaching. [Read more.]Fabian de Kok-Mercado, Satoshi Amagai, Mark Nielsen, Dennis Liu, and Steve Palumbi
in an illustration, two fire ants crawl across a white surface

Entomology Animated Episode 1: RIFA Madness

Though less than a quarter-inch long, fire ants terrify even the largest humans. Here's how their stingers smite us. [Read more.]Eric Keller
illustration of seadragons with eggs

Weedy Seadragon Life Cycle

The seadragon starts as an egg in its dad's—yes, dad's—belly, before becoming a graceful and colorful adult fish. [Read more.]Stephanie Rozzo
protein molecules arranging themselves to drive the e. coli bacteria to divide

The FtsZ Ring: A Multilayered Protein Network

Until recently, no one knew exactly how E. coli bacteria divide. This illustration captures the science of the cellular split. [Read more.]Jennifer E. Fairman
multicolor swirls of co2 on a map of the earth

A Year In The Life Of Earth's CO2

Carbon dioxide ebbs and flows throughout the year. This interactive lets you explore how. [Read more.]Bernhard Jenny, Bojan Šavrič, Johannes Liem, William M. Putman, Kayvon Sharghi, Aaron E. Lepsch, and Patrick Lynch
screenshot of an interactive graphic about machine learning

A Visual Introduction To Machine Learning

This interactive explains how computers can be programmed to learn, using a example based on real estate in New York City and San Francisco. [Read more.]Stephanie Yee and Tony Chu
a poster explaining how the green bladderwort trap works

The Trapping Mechanism Of The Common Bladderwort

As if being called a "common bladderwort" wasn't awesome enough, this plant also preys on aquatic bugs. [Read more.]Wai-Man Chan
visualization contrasting the monochrome vistas above the surface of antarctica's seas with the multicolor cacophony below

Antarctica: A Chromatic Paradox

This visualization shows off the varied and colorful seascape that hides below the surface of the Antarctic seas. [Read more.]Skye Moret