Totally Astonishing Images from the 2013 Art of Science Contest

This isn't an alien world — it's a representation of the winds traveling from East to West (in blue) and West to East (in red) here on Earth. And this is just one of the fantastic images that won the 2013 Science As Art contest at Princeton University. See a few more below.

Top image: East-West, West-East by Martin Jucker, Jury First Place

Every year, Princeton chooses the best science art images of the year — here are some of the previous year's best images. This year's include the above image in "atmospheric and oceanic studies," plus a ton of others, some of which are below.


People's First Place: Messenger Meshwork Shawn C. Little (postdoc), Kristina S. Sinsimer (postdoc), Elizabeth R. Gavis (faculty), and Eric F. Wieschaus (faculty) Department of Molecular Biology

The fruit fly ovary consists of about 100 egg chambers. Each chamber contains 15 "nurse cells." These surround the oocyte, or egg cell, which ultimately will develop into a baby fruit fly. The nurse cells synthesize RNA molecules that are ultimately deposited into the oocyte. Here we see four nurse cells. Each red or green dot is an individual RNA molecule, which is produced from DNA (shown in blue). The RNA molecules intermingle on a threadlike network that allows them to move from one nurse cell to another and then into the developing egg (which we don't see in this image).


People's Second Place: Bridging the Gap Jason Wexler (graduate student) and Howard A. Stone (faculty) Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

When drops of liquid are trapped in a thin gap between two solids, a strong negative pressure develops inside the drops. If the solids are flexible, this pressure deforms the solids to close the gap. In our experiment the solids are transparent, which allows us to image the drops from above. Alternating dark and light lines represent lines of constant gap height, much like the lines on a topological map. Â These lines are caused by light interference, which is the phenomenon responsible for the beautiful rainbow pattern in an oil slick. The blue areas denote the extent of the drops. Since the drops pull the gap closed, the areas of minimum gap height (i.e. maximum deformation) are inside the drops, at the center of the concentric rings.


Light eddies Mitchell A. Nahmias (graduate student) and Paul R. Prucnal (faculty) Department of Electrical Engineering

Fiber optic networks have transformed global communications by moving digital bits of information around the planet at the speed of light. By combining lasers with artificial neural networks, it may one day be possible to create high-speed processors that react to incoming data far faster than current computers could ever handle. Our brains are composed of billions of individual cells called neurons, which communicate along millions of billions of channels with electrochemical signals. This computer model visualizes a laser that behaves like a neuron by plotting a so-called "phase space." Notice that the lines swirl inwards like a whirlpool to converge at stable equilibrium points, indicating that the laser will stabilize over time. Studying these trajectories helps us understand how our devices emit and receive pulses of light that mimic the way in which neurons communicate.


Photon's eye view Emily Grace (graduate student), Christine Pappas (graduate student), Benjamin Schmitt (University of Pennsylvania), Laura Newburgh (postdoc) Department of Physics

The Universe exploded into being 14 billion years ago and remnant light from this explosion is still visible today. Our group measures this light at a site 17,000 feet high in the Atacama Desert in Chile. We use special "detectors" developed in a collaboration between Princeton and other institutions. These detectors use antennas to capture the non-visible wavelengths of light focused by our 6 meter telescope. This photograph looks down into feedhorns, small corrugated structures that allow particles of light to funnel toward the antennas. The antennas are tiny dark triangles suspended upon a thin membrane on a silicon detector wafer that attaches to the base of each feedhorn. The membrane is thin enough that you can see the gold-plated reflective wafer behind the antennas. Light from the camera is reflecting off the gold-plated wafer, casting a golden gleam.


Baby mouse Celeste Nelson (faculty) and Joe Tien (visiting faculty) Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

"We are linked by blood," writes Joyce Carol Oates, "and blood is memory without language." The network of blood vessels known as the vascular system connects all tissues and organs. Confocal imaging gives us the opportunity to view the vascular system by illuminating the whole body with fluorescent light and providing a translucent image of the subject. This mosaic of different confocal images gives us an entire picture of a mouse embryo. Here the vascular system, rather than appearing in a familiar blood-red, is represent by the color green. The blue color represents the DNA that will direct the embryo's growth.


Maze dweller Chhaya Werner '14 Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

That sweet little face peering out of a coral labyrinth is that of a a goby fish. A goby fish is dependent on coral for its home, and in turn will often clean algae that would otherwise smother the coral. I took this photo in the course of field research for the Coral Reefs lab course in Panama (EEB 346) for a project on the ecology of coral reefs, focusing on interactions between corals, algae, and sea urchins.


C. instagram Meredith Wright '13 Department of Molecular Biology (Murphy Lab)

Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) worms are stored on agar plates covered with a lawn of E. coli bacteria as their food source. Sometimes when the C. elegans have consumed all of the bacteria, they begin to clump together as seen in this image. I found the pattern on this plate particularly lovely, and was able to capture it with my cell phone by holding the lens of my phone's camera up to the microscope eyepiece. I've since shared the photo on social networking sites and have had friends who've never been interested in biology ask me more about my work because of this photo. To me, this image represents the simple pleasure of finding something beautiful when you don't expect to, and it shows how easy it is to connect science with new audiences by simply clicking 'share.'


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