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Painting the first of life's molecules, circa 1961

These days, it's easy to take visualizations of biological molecules for granted, what with the easy availability of an ever-increasing supply of high-resolution X-ray and neutron crystallography data, as well as freely available software that render them into beautiful and useful images that help us understand how life works. The lack of computers and computer networks in the mid-1950s made creating these illustrations a painstaking collaboration, requiring an artist's craftsmanship and aesthetic sense, as well as, most importantly, the critical ability to visualize the concepts that scientists wish to communicate. One such scientific artist was Irving Geis, who painted the first biological macromolecule obtained through X-ray data: an iconic watercolor representation of the structure of sperm whale myoglobin, as seen in the third slide of this slideshow of selected pieces. His first effort was a revolutionary work of informatics, including coloring and shading effects that emphasized important structural and functional features of the myoglobin protein, simultaneously moving the less-important aspects into the background, all while stressing simplicity and beauty throughout. The techniques that Geis developed in this and subsequent works influenced the standards for basic 2D protein visualization that are used today.
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Aug 8, 2012 - 6 comments

My name is LUCA, I live on the ocean floor.

Scientists have come closer to finding the common ancestor of all Earth life. The last common universal ancestor (LUCA) is an idea that goes back to Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species and whose existence is supported by the fact that all Earth life is based on DNA. But the tantalizing search is getting closer, primarily based on the question, "Which features of the archaea, bacteria and eukaryotes can be traced back to their common ancestor, LUCA?"
posted by Renoroc on Oct 8, 2011 - 34 comments

Pepsi Big Blue

Scientists image single molecule with atomic force microscopy. See the original abstract in Science. CNET reproduces a representation of the experiment.
posted by grouse on Aug 28, 2009 - 43 comments

Let the holiday shopping begin.

Scientific esthetics- Made With Molecules. Some classy, some trashy, and some just plain cute. [more inside]
posted by sunshinesky on Nov 19, 2007 - 9 comments

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