Science

9 Up-Close Scientific Images from the Wellcome Image Awards

Each year, the Wellcome Image Awards highlight some of the most fascinating scientific images from around the world, as chosen by a panel of experts from the fields of science communications and medicine. The awards go to photographers and researchers who create “informative, striking and technically excellent images that communicate significant aspects of healthcare and biomedical science,” according to the Wellcome Trust, a biomedical research charity based in the UK. Here are nine of this year’s winning images:

ZEBRAFISH EYE AND NEUROMASTS

Ingrid Lekk and Steve Wilson, University College London

In this 4-day-old zebrafish embryo, a certain gene expressed in the lens of the eye and other parts of the visual system glows red when it’s activated. You can see the lens of the eye, the head, and neuromasts (those red dots around the rim of the image) glowing red, while the nervous system glows blue.

BLOOD VESSELS OF THE AFRICAN GREY PARROT

This image was created using a 3D reconstruction of a euthanized parrot. It models the system of blood vessels in the parrot’s head and neck down to the capillary level.

INTRAOCULAR LENS IRIS CLIP

Mark Bartley, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Iris clips can treat nearsightedness, cataracts, and other eye issues. This photo shows an iris clip fitting on the eye of a 70-year-old patient. He regained nearly all his vision after the surgery.

BRAIN-ON-A-CHIP

Collin…

Physics greats of the 20th century mixed science and public service

Enrico Fermi and Richard Garwin
GREAT MINDS Physicists Enrico Fermi (left, shown in the 1940s) and Richard Garwin (right, in the 1960s) are the subjects of two new books.

The 20th century will go down in history — it pretty much already has — as the century of the physicist. Physicists’ revolutionizing of the scientific world view with relativity and quantum mechanics might have been enough to warrant that conclusion. Future historians may emphasize even more, though, the role of physicists in war and government. Two such physicists, one born at the century’s beginning and one still living today, typify that role through their work in developing weapons, advising politicians and shaping policy while still performing outstanding science.

Best known of the two is Enrico Fermi, the Italian intellectual giant who escaped from fascist Italy to America after winning a Nobel Prize for his research in nuclear physics.

When he arrived in the United States in 1939, Fermi almost immediately went to work studying nuclear fission, discovered only weeks earlier in Hitler’s Germany. Eventually Fermi took a major role in the Manhattan Project, leading the team that first demonstrated a controlled nuclear fission chain reaction.

Fermi, a foreigner, assumed a lead role because he was so widely recognized among the world’s physicists as infallible — hence his nickname “the pope.” In The Pope of Physics, Gino Segrè and Bettina Hoerlin chronicle Fermi’s life and science with insight and rich detail.

Fermi is often cited as the last of the great physicists who excelled both at theory and experiment. His theory of the weak nuclear interactions, produced in the early 1930s, remains a key segment of modern physicists’ understanding of matter and forces. His experimental work on neutrons won the Nobel (even though aspects of those experiments turned out to have been incorrectly interpreted).

Segrè (whose uncle was a collaborator of Fermi’s) and Hoerlin explore the personal and political influences on Fermi’s science and relate in detail his experiences in the effort during World War II to develop the atomic…

10 Science-y Valentine’s Day Gifts

This Valentine’s Day, show your love with the help of science. These nerdy gifts take their inspiration from laboratories and science classrooms.

Instead of giving your partner the standard assortment of flowers, give them this bouquet of plush germs. The pack includes cuddly chlamydia, herpes, and mono. There’s two of each, so you can share.

Find it: ThinkGeek

Way, way out in space (7500 light years from Earth), there is a very romantic nebula that gives off red gas and looks like a heart. Uncommon Goods put the aptly named Heart Nebula (which is part of the Heart and Soul complex) on a pair of cufflinks to create the perfect gift for astronomers and space enthusiasts.

Find it: UncommonGoods

Scientific minds like to break things down and examine them from every angle—including kissing. In this book, author Sheril Kirshenbaum looks into the history and science of smooching, from when humans first started puckering up to why men and women kiss differently.

When this coaster…

As German Bombed Paris, Marie Curie Chose to Go to War

August 1914 should have been the height of Marie Curie’s career. After all, she had discovered two elements, pioneered the science of radioactivity, snagged not one but two Nobel Prizes, and was on the precipice of opening a groundbreaking institute for the study of radium in her adopted hometown of Paris.

But the 20th century was not kind to Marie. First, her beloved husband and scientific partner, Pierre, was run over by a horse-drawn carriage and killed. She was overlooked by the French Academy of Sciences, then vilified for her participation in an extramarital affair. And though France seemed eager to claim her as one of theirs, they were all too ready to turn on her when the right-wing press painted her as a dangerous foreigner. Finally, after dragging herself through a sustained period of intense depression, she finally oversaw the completion of her Radium Institute in 1914—only to have all of her male laboratory workers drafted.

And so, as German bombs fell on Paris that fall, Marie Curie decided to go to war.

The first front was financial. The French government called for gold for the war effort, so Marie showed up at a bank with her Nobel Prize medals, ready to donate them to the war effort. When bank officials refused to melt them down, she donated her prize money to purchase war bonds instead. Back in her abandoned lab, moved by a sense of troubled patriotism and irritated by her inability to help, she racked her brain for something—anything—to do.

Her inspiration for what came next might have come from the lead box of radium she stowed in a safe deposit box in Bordeaux that summer. The single gram she had worked so hard to isolate was the only radium available for research in France. She would be unable to experiment with radium during the war, so why not spend her time learning more about another kind of radiography? Marie had long wanted to learn more about X-rays. As she set to work educating herself about this sister science, she quickly realized that she had a powerful technology on…