News FocusSCIENCE AND ENGINEERING VISUALIZATION CHALLENGE

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Science  12 Sep 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5639, pp. 1476-1477
DOI: 10.1126/science.301.5639.1476

FIRST PLACE

Innolab 3D File Manager ADAM MIEZIANKO KRISTOPHER RAMBISH KAREN FUNG ZAVNURA PINGKAN

This Ferris wheel-like arrangement may be the next elegant solution for managing unwieldy amounts of information.

The three-dimensional interface organizes computer contents by their relationships rather than their physical position on a hard drive. Each spider-web thread marks the ties between folders holding contents related to the open file folder (in the center in purple). Colors show how the other folders are related: The red folder is the parent one, blue folders are subdirectories, and the yellow and gray folders are located elsewhere but relate somehow to the central folder.

The program displays relationships that would not be clear in a normal two-dimensional file tree, says Adam Miezianko, who created it with three fellow seniors at Boston University in Massachusetts. Miezianko says the system, built with OpenGL on a Linux platform, could be applied to any sort of hierarchical database, from corporate organizational charts to genetic or ecosystems data. The software could find, for example, all far-flung files containing data on mammals that live in tree canopies. The user can rotate, zoom into, pan across, and spin the three-dimensional file tree to see all possible links with varying criteria.

The screen snapshot the team submitted from the program is “visually striking,” says panel of judges member Boyce Rensberger. “It's a good example of a way of organizing somewhat abstract information into categories, things that are normally not visual … showing degrees of relationship.”

SECOND PLACE

Macrophage and Bacterium 2,000,000x DAVID GOODSELL

A scene of cellular destruction should not be so pretty. This watercolor painting is an interpretation of an immune-system cell called a macrophage (left) engulfing a bacterium (lower right) in the bloodstream. Just a portion of the cells are visible. Their genetic material is depicted in red and orange, the cytoplasm is blue and mauve, and membranes and the endoplasmic reticulum—or the inner highway system and other structures—are shown in greens. Blood, in the upper right of the third panel, is brown and yellow. (For a diagram identifying the major elements, see www.scripps.edu/pub/goodsell/gallery/macrophagebacterium.html.)

David Goodsell created the image as a triptych for scientists walking into the Center for Integrative Molecular Biosciences at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. He based the work on published data, electron micrographs, and other images. The three canvases, each 1 meter high and 0.5 meter wide, represent a view of 0.25 micrometer across, and they hang with captions challenging viewers to hunt for each piece of a cell they might recognize.

The competition's criterion of accuracy led the judges to find the painting controversial because it combines different scales—it hints at protein structures, for instance, that would not be visible through a microscope—and overemphasizes certain elements. In the end, says panel of judges member Gary Lees, Goodsell “magnificently portrayed the interaction of two foreign cells … although he is editing what's seen.” Lees compares the image to seeing the forest and the trees, with a view of all the trees—the molecules making up the structures—and their larger interactions.

HONORABLE MENTION

Cytokines in Hematopoiesis and Development

Every year, R&D Systems Inc.'s catalog of biological reagents is graced by an illustration. For this year's cover art, marketing manager Jennifer Harrington chose the role of cytokines in embryonic hematopoiesis and the generation of hematopoietic stem cells, which eventually give rise to liver, blood, and other kinds of cells. That image became the first half of a larger, more detailed version of the illustration, showing the pathways through which such stem cells develop and differentiate into other cells. The final product, created by freelance medical illustrator Daphne Orlando with research and production assistance from Gregg Hickey and Rita Nistler, respectively, became the poster that won honorable mention. Panel of judges member Thomas Lucas says that the panel liked the piece's clarity in illustrating a complex issue and that “the artist arranged the material into a presentation that was as fascinating up close as it was from afar.” The poster is being distributed for free this year by the company, which creates a free educational poster every year.

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