HIV in 3-D

Image courtesy Konstantinov/Stefanov/Kovalevsky/Voronin, Visual Science Company

The most detailed 3-D model yet of the HIV virus won first place for illustrations in the 2010 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.

Sponsored jointly by the journal Science and the National Science Foundation, the annual competition awards entries that "engage people worldwide and convey science close up in novel and visually stimulating ways," according to a statement. Judging criteria include visual impact, effective communication, freshness, and originality. (See some of the 2009 winners.)

A Russian team led by Ivan Konstantinov analyzed data from more than a hundred scientific journals to digitally depict HIV as close to the real thing as possible. The two-tone color scheme shows HIV (orange) attacking and fusing with an immune cell (gray). The triangular cut-away shows how the virus integrates itself to turn the cell into a virus factory. (Get the facts on AIDS.)

"We consider such 3-D models as a new way to present and promote scientific data about ubiquitous human viruses," Konstantinov, of the Visual Science Company, saidin a statement.





"Horror" Virus

Image courtesy Jonathan Heras, Equinox Graphics

In a 3-D image, a bacteriophage aggressively attacks a bacterium "B-movie horror style," according to creator Jonathan Heras of Equinox Graphics, Ltd. The digital ambush snagged an honorable mention in the illustrations category of the 2010 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.

Bacteriophages are viruses with "alien, spindly legs" and sucker-shaped mouths used to "relentlessly pursue their prey," Heras said in a statement. The viruses hijack bacteria's biology and use the victims as virus "replication factories," he said. (See "'Zombie Virus' Possible via Rabies-Flu Hybrid?")

Overall, the 2010 entries were "exceptional," communicating science "in a way that the public can understand and appreciate," Monica M. Bradford, Science's executive editor, said in a statement.

"The international competition highlights the innovation and technical expertise of scientists who are able to visually attract a wide audience and engage them to experience the complex nature and beauty of science."

Published February 17, 2011





Tomato-Seed "Hair"

Image courtesy Robert Rock Belliveau

A microscope-enabled closeup of hairs on the seed of the common tomato won an honorable mention in the photography category.

The hairs secrete a mucus that appears as a clear membrane at the edge of the seed, according to photographer Robert Rock Belliveau, a retired pathologist. This mucus has several purposes: killing predators with a natural insecticide, preventing .the seed from drying out, and anchoring the seed to the soil





Plant-Gene Map

Image courtesy Insuk Lee, Michael Ahn, Edward Marcotte, and Seung Yon Rhee, Carnegie

What looks like a fireworks display is really a portion of AraNet, a gene map of the mustard plant Arabidopsis thaliana, which earned an honorable mention in the illustrations category. (Get a genetics overview.)

Carnegie Institution for Science team built Aranet from more than 50 million experimental observations of the plant and other organisms. Genes involved in the same biological processes are linked by lines, and color shows the strength of the link.

"It's not unlike a social network," co-creator and biologist Seung Yon Rhee said in the Science article.

Published February 17, 2011