Circle of Life
The genome of Gloeobacter violaceus, drawn as a gorgeous circular plot by visionary biological data artist Martin Krzywinski (from this paper). Within its concentric layers of information are buried genome composition, relation to other species, and overall genetic structure. It’s also very pretty.
Gloeobacter is an ancient photosynthetic bacterium that branched off the rest of the photosynthetic tree (including cyanobacteria and, later, plants) and has its own strange way of eating sunlight.
Krzywinski’s informative and beautiful data visualizations are featured at Wired Science, check ‘em out: Circle of Life: The Beautiful New Way to Visualize Biological Data
Blood From Water
Behold Dorothy Sturm’s so-good-you’d-swear-they-were-real-photomicrographs watercolor illustrations of how different blood cells differentiate.
This classic work of science illustration was featured in the classic text The Morphology of Human Blood Cells by Lemuel Diggs, first published in 1956, and remaining a go-to text for pathologists for nearly half a century.
And here’s the tree of hematopoiesis decoded:
(via Codex 99)
If you delight in all nature’s forms most beautiful, you’d be well served to follow artist Michelle Anderst.
This is from her series symbolizing decomposition, and the inter-species, cross-domain symbioses that recycle all of life’s sculpture and ornament back to the palette of organic materials, ready to paint life anew.
The rest of her collection is just as fantastic, from floral anatomy to astronomical terrariums. I love.
I’m Pollen For You
It’s a lot prettier when it’s on paper rather than launching your sinuses into full revolt and unleashing a Niagara Falls-level torrent of snotty discomfort, eh?
Pollen is strange stuff. Although many pollen grains are only a few millionths of a meter across, plants sculpt remarkably intricate and diverse suits of armor for these mobile gametes, having evolved a remarkable variation of symmetries.
To deliver a plant’s male genetic material to female plant parts, it’s got to be both sticky and tough. Within the pollen grain, a dormant cell lies poised for division, ready to burrow a pollen tube toward the seed ovum when it finds the right female parts. Surrounding that hibernating genetic material are two layers of protection: cellulose-rich intine and sporopollenin-sculpted exine.
So tough are those outer layers, so effectively do they protect the cells within, that pollen grains can be used to study everything from crime scenes to ancient climates. The spores below have survived more than 400 million years, dating from a time when plants had just invaded land and begun to reach up toward the sun:
Illustrations up top are from Ueber de Pollen, by Carl Julius Fritzsche (1837). If you speak German, there’s more small wonder for you here.
(via Public Domain Review)
The first person to slice open a plant stem and view it under a microscope must have been rightly confused.
These days every kindergartner can grasp the basic architecture of a plant. Probably thanks to celery sticks, come to think of it, dipped in colored water, transporting the dyes up their stalk. We’ve all been there, right? It’s thanks to xylem and phloem, that intricate biological plumbing cool enough to make Roman aqueduct engineers jealous. But in the mid-17th century, when men were just beginning to point their telescopes down from the sky toward the micro-universe, the inside of a plant must have been quite a wondrous shock.
Nehemiah Grew was one of those 17th century explorers, unlocking new tiny worlds (joining men like Hooke and van Leeuwenhoek). He had great hair, to go with great curiosity, which he applied to fields ranging from philosophy to science (the curiosity, not the hair). There were fewer boundaries around the subjects people studied back then. I think we should get back to that. Anyway …
Grew approached plant anatomy with the belief that all living things were built and organized from similar ingredients, and from a similar toolbox. Our organs, our fluids, all had a mirror in the plant world, and vice versa. He wasn’t totally right about that, but he wasn’t totally off either (although it would take the dawn of genetics before we really appreciated the details).
Nehemiah Grew’s 1682 work The Anatomy of Plants secured his place as the father of plant anatomy. Public Domain Review has a superb look at his philosophy and science, and the early plant illustrations that helped our knowledge grow. Or Grew.
I love these, best thing since motivational megafauna.
But I also feel like every one of them should be followed by “…but I’m going to eat you anyway.”
A series of six little (5” x 7”) Complimentary Fish I made for the shop. The fish are pen-and-ink on scrap intaglio paper (mostly Somerset, I think), shaded in with some ink and watercolour washes. Afterwards, I cut them out and glued them to some scrapbook paper, then popped them into simple frames.
I probably spent a good three weeks drawing miscellaneous deep sea fish—some of them mermaids, which I’ll have to dig up and post later.
How an amateur astronomer mapped the Moon 59 years before Apollo 11
Walter Goodacre spent decades gazing through his personal telescope, painstakingly sketching the pits, shadows and contours of the moon. He published that map in 1910, when lunar travel was more the realm of Georges Méliès than Neil Armstrong. It wasn’t the first map of the moon, but it was the work of one dedicated amateur scientist.
With time, patience, and practice, you never know what you could accomplish.
You can tour an interactive version of the map at the University College London website, along with several others.
Bonus: Learn about the violent history of our moon.
(via Boing Boing)
Source: Boing Boing
Doug Pedersen takes a light-hearted look at some of NASA’s most famous missions in his NASA Mashups series. Check ‘em all out here.
according to giovanni battista della porta’s phytognomonica, plants can heal the human body parts they resemble. see the palmate root of orchid dactylorhiza? known as “dead man’s fingers.” & after orchis (son of a nymph and satyr) was dismembered, his organs became tubers; “orchis” is greek for “testes.”
The Doctrine of Signatures strikes back! Paracelsus (a.k.a. Phillipus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim) would’ve been proud to see a philosophical successor in Giambattista della Porta, whose work here maintains the somewhat common belief of the era that medicinal plants came into being in the shape of the things they were meant to benefit (i.e. the Doctrine of Signatures). Kidney-shaped leaves suggest a plant good for the kidneys, foot-shaped roots a podiatric wonder herb, etc.
This belief predates even Paracelsus, who died a few years after della Porta was born in the 16th century, but it was Paracelsus who popularized and “perfected” this superstitious botanical system. And its influence can still be felt in some corners today. Though that’s not to say you should go out and start digging up orchids, whether or not you have concerns for your virility. I hear oysters are a popular alternative.
For anyone planning to visit us between now and September 8, the NYBG is actually showing a 1588 first edition of this book, the Phytognomonica, in The Renaissance Herbal—our Mertz Library exhibition during Wild Medicine. And how often are you going to have the chance to see 425-year-old illustrations of such…imaginative root systems? —MN
You are what you eat, ancient medicine edition. Insert zucchini joke here.