The 8 best science, video and imagery icons of the year



PThe opSci editors are dedicated to sharing how exciting science is, from cutting-edge technology to the fundamental principles that explain how our universe works. But science is not only exciting. It's also beautiful. To celebrate this beauty, Popular science and the National Science Foundation collaborate each year to look for the best visualizations in science.

This year's B Vizzies Awards are characterized by a fresh (and colorful) depiction of how gravity works and a video of the human brain in motion. You will also get close and personal to the mosquitoes and you will follow the overwhelming conclusion of a physics experiment that he dreamed centuries ago. These and four other winners were selected from hundreds of entries by a team of scientists, graphic designers and other experts. To make the final cut, a video or an illustration was supposed to be visually impressive and to convey scientific ideas in both clear and impressive form.

Read below and find out what the judges saw at this year's collection of beautiful sciences.


Visualization of Scissor Conflict

Experience of expert selection

A few years ago, Dmitry Smirnov sat in an advanced class of mathematical colleges when he learned a principle that shouted to share with a wider audience. "If you have two polygons – two shapes – that are flat surface, you can cut them to a finite number of pieces and then paste them to make the other shape," said Smirnov, a doctoral candidate in the IT field at MIT, he explains.

This idea is known as the Wallace-Bolyai-Gerwien theorem. It is a basic principle of computational geometry, a field used in architecture, robotics and molecular biology. Smirnov and his colleagues created an interactive tool that "allows anyone to prove the theorem for himself," breaking and re-assembling shapes in front of your eyes. "We have seen that this particular theorem was something that could be understood and appreciated by anyone," says Smirnov. "You hear the phrase" mathematics is fine "that throws around many, and actually seeing a particular visual example of this is something that I think is very cool."

See interactive here.


Earth Day 1970 – 2018: Changes in the Sea

Experience of expert selection

From Vivian Trakinski, Executive Producer. Laura Moustakerski, writer / producer; Shay Krasinski, Animator; Jason Morfoot, Sound Design. Jeremy Jackson and Ana Porzecanski, Scientific Advisors

The seas of the planet are so deep and huge that they look like their own world, but few even their most remote waters remain untouched by our human cultures. This video, created by the American Natural History Museum in honor of Earth Day, is a modest look at how the ocean has changed since the holiday was celebrated for the first time in 1970.

"We tend to treat it as land for dumping and because people do not live in the ocean they do not necessarily see what we do in it," says Laura Moustakerski, author and producer at the museum that worked on the video.

Over the last decades, the ocean has absorbed most of the excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions, along with 150 million tons of plastic. Sea levels have begun to grow, while corals disappear, and overfishing threatens the supply of seafood. But there is still hope. "There are definitely things we can do to help the oceans," says Moustakerski. The video highlights some of these success stories and suggests how each of us can contribute to a better future.


Pascal barrel barrel

Experience of expert selection

With Katerina Vishnits, Lance Herrington, Omelan Stryzak, Rick Soden, Julio Lopez, William Dix, Dan Quiyu, Lisa Jackson, Janine Nunes

The legend says that almost 400 years ago mathematician Blaise Pascal did an explosive experiment: he stands on a building and pours water under a thin tube into a wooden barrel full of water until it bursts. This story depicts the Pascal law, which states that the amount of pressure in a liquid depends on the height of the liquid, but not on its total weight.

However, when Princeton University's physics, Katerina Vishnich, decided to recreate the experiment with the barrel, she could not find evidence that everyone (including Pascal himself) actually did. So, along with her colleagues, they were filming their own version, with a 50-liter glass jar and a 155-foot straw. The jug was destroyed as the team threw just 1 liter of water under the tube. "It is very likely that we are the first team in history to do this experiment," says Visnjic. "It's such a beautiful, perceptive demonstration of how fluids behave in nature."

It may seem odd that such a small amount of liquid could destroy such a large boat. But the pressure at the bottom of the straw was the same crushing force you would encounter if you fell 155 feet deep into the ocean.


Anatomy of biting

Experience of expert selection

Mosquitoes are among the most deadly animals in the world, responsible for millions of deaths each year according to the World Health Organization. In "Anatomy of Biting", Rebecca Konte shows how she punches your skin and transmits dangerous diseases.

Hours of rest in the mosquitoes under the microscope led to some surprises for the San Francisco-based biologist. "Mosquitoes have a very strange anatomy," says Konte. "It's very complicated when you get close and compact because it's small, so everything is engraved together."

In fact, a mosquito can actually push extra fluid from her stomach to make room for more blood while feeding on you. Konte also learned that the mosquito nets they use to pierce your skin are made of not just one but six needles. "They have different jobs," says Konte. "Some needles are pushing and searching, other needles saw your skin and everything is kept under a sheath that is removed when you bite your skin."


In Search of Earth's Secrets

Experience of expert selection

With ScienceMedia.nl (Saskia Madlener, Dan Brinkhuis, Dick Peterse and Ageeth Rademaker), the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the International Ocean Discovery Program, and Columbia University (Sharon Cooper)

Graved deep inside the sea is a history of our planet written in rock and mud. The long, thin cores of the sediments extracted from the yacht pierce retain long-lasting remnants and clues to earlier disasters such as the ash caused by the asteroid strike that ended the dinosaur kingdom 66 million years ago.

"To simply think about the vast amount of information that exists so deeply in seawater, this is the exciting mind," says Saskia Madlener, director and writer at ScienceMedia, a Dutch based company specializing in science-based video to the audience.

Madlenn and her team have launched a search for land secrets as part of a travel survey on scientific drilling carried out by various institutions, including the Consortium for Oceanic Leadership. As the video plays, the living cores of the sediments are perceived to share a look at what scientists see when they see the past of the earth. Madlener says he hopes the video will inspire people to support research on Earth sciences. "There's still a lot more to discover."


The gravity is depicted

Winner of choice of the people

In "Gravity Visualized 1 and 2," high school student Arjun Hausner used marbles to portray a power that runs every day. Gravity is caused by the massive distortion of space around it, a phenomenon described in Albert Einstein in the famous theory of general relativity. Devices called gravity wells can mimic this curvature and are often found in museums of science. Usually, drop a dime into the hopper and watch the spin around and around before it drops to the center.

Hausner adopts this idea one step further using dyed marbles and elastic fabric that stretches in a trampoline frame with weights in the middle. As each marble rotates around and around, it draws a unique path. These pieces become dense near the weight to "capture the gravity motif," says Hausner.

Playing with scientific ideas in the classroom of art, it became easier to understand, says Hausner, now a student at Cornell University. "Science and art are very similar in many ways, because both include a process in which you observe the physical world and then translate it into another form that provides this information."


Muscles and nerves of a developing lizard

Winner of choice of the people

This gecko embryo is actually a panorama of 12,000 images taken from all corners under the microscope, each of which has a tiny piece of an entire fetus stained with fluorescent dyes. In 12 days of growth, muscle and nerve building blocks (visible in red and white) were formed. "The beauty of such an image is that something as small as this little embryo that develops for so little time already has a lot of complexity," says Daniel Smith-Paredes, a PhD candidate in Comparative Anatomy at Yale University.

By studying how animals develop as embryos and comparing this process between different species, scientists can find indications of how lizards, birds, and other animals evolved from their petrified ancestors. Smith-Paredes says he hopes the image will "cause a little curiosity about how things are built and how we evolved."


Combined brain movements and blood flow

Winner of choice of the people

With Kambiz Nael, Itamar Terem (Stanford), Mehmet Kurt (Stevens), Samantha Holdsworth (U of Auckland) and John Martinez (Stevens)

Your brain is constantly moving with motion. As your heart pumps you, the blood vessels of your jawline expand and contract, gently pushing the brain tissue around them. These moves are too subtle to feel. In fact, only recently scientists were able to observe them in action.

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

Researchers hope that the new imaging method could reveal whether aneurysms – weak spots in the blood vessels that swell and sometimes break – are increasing and even predict if they are likely to break. "We want to watch these tiny movements and we hope to have an idea of ​​how the aneurysm stability changes over time," says Mehmet Kurt, assistant professor of engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology. He and his team will present the technique this month at the Biomedical Engineering Meeting in Atlanta.