Science Can Be Beautiful

A fetal pony, alien-looking insects and space-like organs are some beautiful images from science.

Last month was the 14th annual Wellcome Image Awards which highlighted 20 incredible and beautiful images from the world of medical science.  Wellcome Trust is an agency which funds medical research.  Here are my favorites from this year’s winners.

This photograph of a pregnant uterus from a New Forest pony won the first prize from the unanimous panel of judges.  The developing pony has developed about five months is outside of the uterus but still attached by membranes and its umbilical cord.  The back legs of my little fetal pony, (hehe) stick out from the membranes looking like a plastic horse I had as a little girl.  The cut-open uterus shows blood supply visible on the inner surface.  The fetus is preserved in formalin and was photographed at the Anatomy Museum of the Royal Veterinary College in London.  (Credit: Michael Frank, Royal Veterinary College / Wellcome Images)


Looking like somewhere between a dream and a nightmare is this illustration of pollen grains taking flight from a flower in the Asteraceae family.  Commonly known as the aster, daisy, sunflower or composite family, it is one of the largest families of flowering plants.  Pollen grains are structures produced in the anther which contain the male sperm cell to be carried by insects, birds or wind, to other flowers to allow reproduction.  (Credit: Maurizio De Angelis, Wellcome Images)


The blue and green in this confocal micrograph are whole mouse lungs.  The pink splotches are microparticles which can carry medicine and are being studied as to whether they can deliver drugs to the lungs.  Researchers are hoping that microparticles could deliver anticancer medicine one day in a simpler way than today’s treatments, and do so with fewer side-effects.  (Credit: Gregory Szeto, Adelaide Tovar and Jeff Wyckoff, Wellcome Images)


Looking like a bubbling lava flow is this polarized light micrograph of a cross-sectioned portion of a cat’s tongue.  The round protrusions are papillae which gives the tongue a rough texture that helps a cat pick up food and clean its fur.  In other words, that unique feeling you get when being licked by a cat, well, this is what is causing it.  (Credit: David Linstead, Wellcome Images)


What could fool someone into thinking this is a new alien monster for a movie, is this head of a boll weevil.  Also known as Anthonomus grandis, it’s image is the result of a scanning electron microscope composite.  Boll weevils are tiny, (adults average 6 to 8 mm,) but can ravage entire crops of cotton where they lay their eggs.  (Credit: Daniel Kariko, Wellcome Images)


If you thought the mouse lungs above were cool, check out this confocal micrograph of nerve cells in a section of an adult mouse brain.  This 0.75 mm thick slice of brain was chemically treated to make the tissue transparent then they visualized a subset of nerve cells tagged by visual markers (fluorescent protein) at different depths.  (Credit: Luis de la Torre-Ubieta, Wellcome Images)


Viewed from above, this light micrograph of a tiny parasite wasp (Wallaceaphytis kikiae) looks like some kind of CGI model.  Kind of elegant in this image, this specimen hides its creepy nature.  This tiny wasp (0.75 mm in length) is representative of a newly discovered genus from Borneo’s rainforest — what’s creepy about that?  OK, well, this is a parasitoid wasp, which means it lays eggs inside other insects.  The larvae hatch from the eggs and feed on the host, eating it alive from inside, until they break free and continue their circle of life.  You’re welcome.  😉  (Credit: Andrew Polaszek, Wellcome Images)


Jackson Pollock painted very similarly to how this digital color-coded map of part of a fruit fly’s central nervous system looks.  The image of the Drosophila melanogaster‘s C.N.S. was created using transmission electron micrographs.  (Credit: Albert Cardona, Wellcome Images)

Add Comment