Scientists have long relied on artists and designers to visualize complex ideas. It’s a big part of how they explain to the general public the seemingly inexplicable stuff they do all day.
The winners of the annual International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge, announced last month, represent “cutting-edge efforts to visualize scientific data, principles, and ideas.” They are masters of taking big woolly topics like “Variable-Diameter Carbon Nanotubes” and “High-Density Energy Storage,” and making them relatable–maybe even a little sexy–through illustrations, infographics, photography, games, videos, and in one instance, a well-chosen musical nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Many of these images are also works of art in their own right, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise: As science progresses, so too do the methods for representing it. Today’s crop of artists uses 3-D modeling, hyper-magnified photography, and other techniques, to make new discoveries easier to understand and more beautiful than ever. Soon, we’ll all want to hang our kid’s bio book over the mantel.