Posts tagged
with biology

Animation Art Science

‘aBiogenesis’ Reimagines the Primordial Soup Theory in a Mesmerizing Animation by Markos Kay

December 29, 2022

Kate Mothes

In an ethereal animation by London-based CGI artist Markos Kay, a mysterious world is in the process of forming. “aBiogenesis” reimagines the origin of life in a mesmerizing rendering of the lipid world hypothesis—a theory suggesting that the first self-replicating, cell-like objects were composed of a kind of fatty acid that could not dissolve in water. The hypothesis postulates that lipids may have formed into generative bilayers in the oceans. “These bilayers would have acted like tiny bubbles or bags, enclosing and protecting the chemical reactions that would eventually give rise to life,” he says.

Kay has focused on the intersection of art and science in his practice, utilizing digital tools to visualize biological or primordial phenomena. “aBiogenesis” focuses a microscopic lens on imagined protocells, vesicles, and primordial foam that twists and oscillates in various forms.

The artist has prints available for sale in his shop, and you can find more work on his website and Behance.


An artistic digital rendering of "primordial soup" or foamy particles that are hypothesized to be the origin of life.

All images © Markos Kay

Artistic digital renderings of "primordial soup" or foamy particles that are hypothesized to be the origin of life.

An artistic digital rendering of "primordial soup" or foamy particles that are hypothesized to be the origin of life.

Artistic digital renderings of "primordial soup" or foamy particles that are hypothesized to be the origin of life.  An artistic digital rendering of "primordial soup" or foamy particles that are hypothesized to be the origin of life.




Photography Science

Photographer Levon Biss Illuminates the Strange, Otherworldly Chrysalises of Butterfly Pupae

November 4, 2022

Grace Ebert

A photo of 30 butterfly pupae

All images © Levon Biss, shared with permission

A photographer known for using the macro to investigate the micro, Levon Biss (previously) continues his explorations into the vast world of entomology. His recent butterfly pupae series centers on “the diversity of design and form” through illuminating portraits of approximately 30 specimens as they undergo metamorphosis and complete the final, most vulnerable stage of the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

Otherworldly and bordering on the bizarre, many of the chrysalises have evolved to be deceptive in appearance, acting as necessary camouflage from potential predators by impersonating nearby plants and surroundings: some mimic the natural, like those that imitate a rotting plantain or mossy hunk of bark, while others are more artful, like those spotted with Kusama-esque dots or cloaked in a mirrored gold coating. The photographs are “intended to be both entertaining and educational,” Biss shares, “allowing the viewer to appreciate the diversity in the subject whilst appreciating the intricate details that evolution has created.”

Pick up a print of the unearthly images, and find more from the collection on Biss’s site and Instagram. If you’re in New York, you can also see his Extinct and Endangered series at the American Museum of Natural History.


A photo of a butterfly pupa that looks like a plantain

A photo of a butterfly pupa with black dots

Two photos of green butterfly pupae

A photo of a butterfly pupa that looks like mossy bark

Two photos of butterfly pupae that are brown and green

A photo of a butterfly pupa that looks like mirrored gold



Photography Science

This Year’s Small World Photo Contest Unveils the Astounding Details Only Visible Under the Light Microscope

October 15, 2022

Grace Ebert

Long-bodied cellar/daddy long-legs spider (Pholcus phalangioides), Dr. Andrew Posselt. 4th place. All images courtesy of Nikon Small World, shared with permission

For 48 years the Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition has garnered some of the most awe-inspiring and illuminated images of all that’s visible once placed under a light microscope. The 2022 contest continues the tradition with a captivating collection that exposes the minuscule details of life on Earth. Winning images zero in on the prickly hairs covering a daddy long-legs, the trippy patterns of a marine snail’s tongue, and the tessellation-like heads of a slime mold. This year’s top photos were selected from more than 1,300 entries from 72 countries, and you can see some of our favorites below. Peruse the entire collection on the competition’s site.


Radula (rasping tongue) of a marine snail (Turbinidae family), Dr. Igor Siwanowicz. Honorable mention.

Unburned particles of carbon released when the hydrocarbon chain of candle wax breaks down, Ole Bielfeldt. 6th place.

Cross sections of normal human colon epithelial crypts, Dr. Ziad El-Zaatari. 15th place.

Embryonic hand of a Madagascar giant day gecko (Phelsuma grandis), Grigorii Timin & Dr. Michel Milinkovitch. First place

A fly under the chin of a tiger beetle, Murat Öztürk. 10th place.

Slime mold (Lamproderma), Alison Pollack. 5th place.

Butterfly egg, Ye Fei Zhang. Honorable mention.

Ammophila arenaria (grass stem), Anatoly Mikhaltsov. Image of distinction.

Paper wasp stinger, Pablo Piedra. Image of distinction.



History Illustration Science

Six Centuries, 700 Scientists, 300 Groundbreaking Milestones: A New Book Examines the Invaluable History of Science Illustrations

October 10, 2022

Grace Ebert

Sagittal section of the body of a male; An Atlas of Topographical Anatomy: After Plane Sections of Frozen Bodies, Christian Wilhelm Braune, Philadelphia, 1877 © Courtesy US National Library of Medicine. All images courtesy Taschen

From medicine and biology to chemistry and astronomy, a massive new book published by Taschen chronicles the unparalleled contributions of illustrations to scientific study. Compiling more than 300 distinct charts, renderings, and graphs within its 436 pages, the volume opens with early developments like Isaac Newton’s law of gravitation and Nicolaus Copernicus’s heliocentrism, which positioned the sun at the center of the solar system. It then travels throughout the following six centuries, capturing everything from the use of anesthesia and zoological studies to current-day renderings of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere. In addition to the illustrations themselves, the book also details how such visuals continue to impact both the theories and principles that are the foundation for scientific discovery and the general public’s conceptions of how the world works.

Science Illustration. A History of Visual Knowledge from the 15th Century to Today is available now from Taschen and Bookshop.


“A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2”, an ultra-high-resolution computer model gives scientists a look at how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere travels around the globe, Goddard Space Flight Center’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA, 2014. Image © NASA

A slice of the lower part of the root of horseradish cut transversely, An Idea of a Phytological History Propounded, Nehemiah Grew, London, 1673 © ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Rar 6191

Spectra of the stars and nebulae, ‘Spectrum Analysis,’ Henry E. Roscoe, London, 1885. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian Libraries, Washington, D.C.

Application of anesthesia, ‘Illustrations of Strange Diseases and Their Surgical Treatments,’ Hanaoka Seishū, 1805, illustrated by Tangetsu. Image courtesy US National Library of Medicine

Montgolfier balloon carrying the Marquis d’Arlandes and M. Pilatre de Rozier, Paris, 1783 © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Tissandier Collection



Illustration Science

In ‘Wild Design,’ Vintage Illustrations Expose the Patterns and Shapes Behind All Life on Earth

January 5, 2022

Grace Ebert

Ernst Haeckel, Kunstformen der Natur, 1904. Gotha: Bibliographisches Institut. All images from Wild Design: Nature’s Architects by Kimberly Ridley, published by Princeton Architectural Press, shared with permission of the publisher

Focusing on the patterns and shapes that structure the planet, a new book published by Princeton Architectural Press explores the science behind a trove of organically occurring forms. Wild Design: Nature’s Architects by author Kimberly Ridley pairs dozens of vintage illustrations—spot the work of famed German biologist Ernst Haeckel (previously) among them—with essays detailing the function of the striking phenomena, from the smallest organisms to the monumental foundations that extend across vast swaths of land. These structures are simultaneously beautiful and crucial to life on Earth and include the sprawling mycelium networks connecting life above and below ground, the papery, hexagonal cells comprising honeycomb, and a spider’s funnel-like web tailored to trap its prey. Dive further into the world of Wild Design by picking up a copy from Bookshop.


(Johann Andreas Naumann, Naturgeschichte der Vögel Deutschlands, 1820. Leipzig: G. Fleischer

Ernst Haeckel, Kunstformen der Natur, 1904. Gotha: Bibliographisches Institut

Berthold Seemann, Journal of Botany, 1863. London: R. Hardwicke

Henry C. McCook, American Spiders and Their Spinning Work, 1889. Philadelphia: Academy of Natural Science of Philadelphia


Henri de Saussure, Études sur la famille des vespides, 1852. Paris: V. Masson

Oliver B. Bunce and William C. Cullen, Picturesque America, 1872. New York: D. Appleton




Translucent Sculptures of Segmented Glass by Artist Jiyong Lee Evoke Single-Celled Organisms

September 3, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Green Cosmarium Segmentation” (2018), hot sculpted, cut, color laminated, carved, glass, 7 1/4 × 10 × 7 1/4 inches. All images © Jiyong Lee, shared with permission

Fascinated by the organisms found in the sea and bodies of freshwater, artist Jiyong Lee (previously) sculpts semi-transparent artworks that evoke the various forms of algae and other microscopic creatures. The segmented pieces, which are composed of smooth, matte glass, create both organic and geometric shapes. Part of an ongoing Segmentation Series, the composite works consider the evolution of a single cell, which Lee expands on:

I work with glass that has transparency and translucency, two qualities that serve as perfect metaphors for what is known and unknown about life science. The segmented, geometrical forms of my work represent cells, embryos, biological and molecular structures—each symbolizing the building blocks of life as well as the starting point of life.

Lee is based in Carbondale, Illinois, where he teaches at Southern Illinois University, and many of the pieces shown here will be part of a group show at Duane Reed Gallery in St. Louis from September 12 to October 17, 2020. The artist also was chosen as one of 30 artists for the Loewe Foundation’s Craft Prize, which will bring him to Paris for an exhibition in the spring of 2021. Until then, explore more of Lee’s biology-informed sculptures on Artsy.


“Mitosis” (2010), cut, color (white) laminated, carved glass, 8.6 x 13 x 14 inches

“Diatom segmentation” (2019), cut, color laminated, carved, hot formed glass, 7 x 10 x 7 inches

“Black and White Diatom Segmentation” (2020), hot sculpted, cut, color laminated, carved, glass, 8 × 12 × 8 inches

Left: “Gray Diatom Segmentation” (2018), cut, color laminated, carved glass, 5 1/4 × 12 1/2 inches. Right: “Yellow Orange Diatom Segmentation” (2020), hot sculpted, cut, color laminated, carved, glass, 7 1/2 x 10 x 8 1/2 inches

“Green Yellow Diatom Segmentation” (2020), hot sculpted, cut, color laminated, carved, glass, 5 3/4 × 12 × 12 inches

“White Green Diatom Segmentation” (2020), hot sculpted, cut, color laminated, carved, glass, 8 1/2 × 10 × 8 1/2 inches