Geologic or synthetic mineral crystals usually have flat faces and sharp edges, whereas biomineral crystals can have strikingly uncommon forms that have evolved to enhance function. The image here was captured using environmental scanning electron microscopy and false-colored. Each color highlights a continuous single-crystal of calcite (CaCO3) made by the sea urchin Arbacia punctulata, at the forming end of one of its teeth. Credit: Pupa U.P.A. Gilbert and Christopher E. Killian, University of Wisconsin-MadisonThe National Science Foundation (NSF), along with the journal Science, this week announced the 53 winners and honorable mentions of the International Science & Technology Visualization Challenge, a highly competitive contest jointly sponsored by NSF and Science. Science magazine is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

This latest competition received more than 200 entries from 18 countries, including entries from 19 U.S. states and Canadian territories. The Feb. 1, 2013, issue of Science features the winning submissions, which are also accessible to the public at NSF's website.

"It's the 10th year of this challenge, and each year, partnering with Science magazine, we receive beautiful and compelling visualizations that enhance public understanding of science," said Judith Gan, NSF's director of Legislative and Public Affairs. "Researchers are generating more information than ever before, and visualization techniques are evolving to meet the challenge of conveying this information in comprehensible ways, as well. This year's many outstanding contributions are evidence of this continuing adaptation necessary to illuminate increasingly complex information."

"This year's winning entries are a spectacular collection. Each one exposes a hidden facet of the natural world, or puts scientific concepts in a new light. And they use cutting-edge techniques to draw the viewer in," said Colin Norman, Science magazine's news editor. "That's exactly what we were hoping for when we joined with NSF a decade ago to launch the science and engineering visualization challenge."

Winning entries feature owls that can perform 270-degree neck rotations, biomineral crystals found in a sea urchin's tooth, a realistic video simulation of a human heart, a flash game about Special Relativity and other compelling visualizations.

A committee of staff members from Science and NSF screened the entries and sent finalists to an outside panel of experts in scientific visualization to select the winners. In addition, as was the case for the first time last year, the public participated in the voting process, selecting their favorite images as People's Choice awardees. The challenge received more than 3,150 public votes.

The winning entries are featured by category at the links below in NSF's International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge Special Report, where several winners are featured in a video produced by NSF.

Source: National Science Foundation