The Princeton University's "Art of Science" exhibition displays the work of Princetonians past and present that highlights the interplay between art and science. Its entries are chosen for their aesthetics as well as the scientific or technical interest they may hold.
This year's was the seventh Princeton University Art of Science competition. Let's take a look at the top three winners in the contest, as well as the "People's Choice" winner and some other dazzling works. We'll also hear from the artists via comments they made about the works they created.
"Watermark," from postdoctoral researcher Sara Sadr, was this year's first-place winner (shown above). The pattern in the image was created by water moving back and forth on the Atlantic coast. "As a hydrologist, I am fascinated by the natural phenomena of our beautiful planet," notes Sadr. "The way water in this picture found its way back to the ocean reminded me of a peacock's tail spreading under the sun, or a woman's hair blowing in the wind."
Postdoctoral researchers James S. Waters produced this second-place image, "Fungus Among Us." He photographed this microscopic view of an unidentified species of Rhizopus fungus growing on debris within a lab-reared colony of Aphaenogaster rudis seed-harvesting ants.
"From the bacteria in our bellies to the mites on our eyelashes, an entire frontier of unexplored diversity is living and breathing alongside and within us. The same is true for other animals as well, including ants," Waters says.
"Portrait of the Artist in the Air Shower" was the third-place image, created by graduate student Yasmin Afsar. Here, the artist enters a clean room in full costume, through a 20 second air shower.
A clean room is used for research, and it requires minimal environmental pollutants. Our skin, our hair, and our clothing give off tiny particles that can hinder micro- and nano-scale electronic devices. So researchers need to dress like this.
"I spend many hours in the cleanroom, usually attired as seen in the photo," says Asfar.
Fourth place in this year's competition went to "Fruit Fly Factory," by graduate student Yogesh Goyal.and faculty member Stas Shvartsman.
As its creators note: "Each ovary of the female fruit fly houses multiple ovarioles or 'assembly lines' in which individual egg chambers develop into fully formed fly eggs. Each egg chamber consists of 16 large germline cells (one of which is the future egg cell), surrounded by a thin sheet of smaller cells. In this picture, cross-sections of 10 ovarioles from different female fruit flies are arranged with stem cells and early stage egg chambers at the center, and the more mature chambers at the periphery. The nucleus of each cell is stained yellow/orange. The cell membranes are stained blue."
Celeste M. Nelson created "Baby Kraken," an image of a squid embryo captured using a fluorescence microscope.
"In this image, we see the baby squid’s eyes, four of its arms (check out the tiny suction cups!), and the large yolk sac that provides nutrients to the growing embryo -- which is smaller than the size of a pea," says Nelson.
In "A Cave of Crystals," Hyoungsoo Kim (postdoctoral researcher), François Boulogne (postdoctoral researcher), and Howard A. Stone (faculty) have fun capturing liquid evaporating off a surface. "Watch any liquid – from tap water to the richest coffee – evaporate off a surface and you will see it leave a unique, ghostly mark," the team says in the text accompanying their work.
Here they deposited a dilute solution of bovine serum albumin -– a protein from cow’s blood. As the solution droplet evaporated, the protein crystallized, leaving a pattern similar to snowflakes.
"As time passed, more and more moisture evaporated, ultimately revealing a crystal cave that represents, to us, the need to explore even deeper in our quest for scientific discovery," the team says.
Scherer Lab's Civil & Environmental Engineering members created "Angel."
"To protect marble monuments from corrosion, we are developing protective coatings of hydroxyapatite (which is the mineral in teeth) that are durable, but invisible," the company says. "To control the growth of the mineral, we add a polymer (polyacrylic acid), which adsorbs on the growing crystal.
"In this image, the polyacrylic acid particles show exotic forms. The little angel seems to have emerged from the spherical chamber to the right. How many of these little angels could fit on the head of a pin? About 10,000," the company notes.
Nathan P. Myhrvold, a 1983 graduate alumnus, used dark-field microscopy to create "Leaf."
"With the naked eye, one can see the veins spreading from the stem to the tips of a leaf," says Myhrvold. "Amazingly, even under high magnification, as shown here, the vein hierarchy looks qualitatively the same: each large vein branches off into secondary, tertiary, and quaternary veins that support the cells of the plant. In mathematical terms, the structure is fractal."
An undergraduate alumna from the Class of 2008, Clara O'Farrell, created of "Ring of Fire," an image of vortex rings. O'Farrell notes that vortex rings are plentiful out in nature, in places such as stormy skies or river rapids. "But they are hard to see unless revealed by suspended particles, much as smoke particles reveal the structure of a smoke ring," she says.
O'Farrell generated this vortex ring inside a water tank that was seeded with tracer particles, to visualize the flow. The red and yellow colors reveal separate and distinct regions of the vortex. "Unlike most circular vortex rings, this one is elliptical, which is why the vortex deforms as it travels," adds O'Farrell.
"Living Architecture" is the work of graduate student Chris Reid.
"Unlike most ants, army ants do not build permanent mound-like nests for their colonies. Rather, the worker ants build a living nest with their bodies to protect the queen, young ants, and food," says Reid. "In this picture, taken on Barro Colordo Island, Panama, workers of the army ant species Eciton hamatum form a bridge with their bodies. This bridge could become the start of a complicated structure with many chambers, all formed from living ants.