Science Visualization Awards, the "Vizzies," Honor Creepy, Beautiful Wonders

Because why stick with words when you can have illustrated seadragons?

Daniel M. Harris and John W.M. Bush

The world’s best science is, in a word, indescribable. We can try to capture the terrorizing sting of fire ants or the undulations of the Earth’s greenhouse gases in prose, but even our best literary efforts barely grasp their grandeur.

The National Science Foundation knows the physical world demands visual respect, which is why it founded the Vizzies, an annual competition celebrating the best science visualizations in the country. This year’s winners, a stunning array of photographs, videos, apps and illustrations, were announced today.

A team of experts from the NSF and Popular Science chose 10 semi-finalists per category out of hundreds of submissions, and a panel of outside experts chose the winners. Five “People’s Choice” awards were also selected in each category. In a bit of well-timed marketing, the NSF also used the dazzling images as an excuse to launch its Instagram.

Taking the “Expert’s Choice” prize in photography was a physicist’s image of a water droplet entitled Walking in Color, illustrating the movements quantum particles might make if they were visible.

Experts and the public both selected an entry entitled Coral Bleaching: A Breakdown of Symbiosis — showing the rhythmic flow and release of the polyps that give corals their vibrant colors — as the best video.

The Trapping Mechanism of the Common Bladderwort, a poster illustrating the creepy plant’s sneaky hunting skills, took home the expert’s prize for best graphics.

Meanwhile this gorgeous, intricately detailed drawing titled Weedy Seadragon Life Cycle won the expert’s prize in illustration.

Cartographer Bernhard Jenny was winner of the “interactive” category — a swirly map titled A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2. The visualization allows users to see their direct impact on the earth’s atmosphere via an interface that allows users to reposition the globe.

Check it out here and bask in the visual beauty of science.