A multicolored mouse eye, the macro-scale universe, alien slugs on the face of a baby cucumber — all these images accomplish a pretty impressive feat: They look awesome, and they can teach us something about the world we live in and our place in it. They are among the winners of the 2011 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge, sponsored by the journal Science and the National Science Foundation. Check out our gallery of some of the winners.
_Click to launch the photo gallery
The competition, now in its ninth year, honors photographers and illustrators who use their skills to promote understanding of science and new research. There were 212 entries from 33 countries, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which publishes Science.
Some of the highlights include a deep magnification of cucumber skin, with its closely arranged trichomes on the surface. Did you know that an immature cucumber had these points, each 40 times thinner than a sewing needle? We did not, but apparently the plants have evolved these distal points to thwart herbivores that would eat the veggies before they are fully grown. The points can “penetrate the mouthparts of herbivores,” according to the challenge, which awarded an honorable mention to a photo of these points.
Other winners include a map of the cosmos, a zoomed-in view of the human hand, a 3-D depiction of mitosis, and much more. Click through to the gallery to see some of our favorites.
Illustration First Place – The Cosmic Void
Photography First Place – Metabolomic Eye
Photography Honorable Mention – Cucumber Skin
Photography People’s Choice – The Cliff of the 2-Dimensional World
Illustration Honorable Mention – Tumor Death
Illustration Honorable Mention – Variable Carbon Nanotubes
Illustration Honorable Mention – Psychedelic Domain Coloring
Illustration People’s Choice – Cell Separation
Interactive Games First Place – Foldit
Interactive Games People’s Choice – Velu the Welder
Interactive Games Honorable Mention – Powers of Minus Ten