The Best Scientific Images Of 2013

Tyler Durden's picture

It is a slow Saturday with virtually no financial, economic or any other news, so what better way to spend it than looking at the coolest non-finance related images of the past year. Without further ado, here they are, courtesy of Wired: the best scientific visualizations of 2013.

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1. The Mathematics of Familiar Strangers

We live in an image-dominated age, and popular science abounds with visuals: eye-popping photographs, gorgeous graphics and slick information design. Amidst all this eye candy, not much attention is paid to figures accompanying articles in scientific journals and white papers.

Even if they're utilitarian and low-resolution, though — or perhaps because of that — these figures are a sort of scientific folk art. They convey complex findings or principles with simplicity and grace, and sometimes even beauty.

On the following pages are Wired Science's favorite research graphics of 2013. They're in no particular order, except that the first are particular favorites. Based on a population-wide analysis of bus ridership in Singapore, they depict a little-appreciated type of social network: that of "familiar strangers," or the people we encounter while going about our everyday routines.

Above is the encounter network of a single bus and its 214 regular passengers. Below and at left is a single individual's "encounter network" over the course of a week; to the right are the formal chances of bumping into a familiar stranger a given time. Even at a glimpse, the figures quantify a truth intuited by commuters: beneath urban life's chaotic, seemingly random surface lies pattern and order.

Citation: "Understanding metropolitan patterns of daily encounters." By Lijun Sun, Kay W. Axhausen, Der-Horng Lee, Xianfeng Huang. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 110 No. 34, August 20, 2013.

2. An Unexpected Engine of Evolution

It's often thought that evolution is fueled by competition, with red-in-tooth-and-claw dynamics generating new, better-adapted forms and species. But sometimes — perhaps frequently — new species just happen.

Above and at right is a map of greenish warbler distribution, color-coded according to local genetic signatures, around the Tibetan plateau. The warblers are what's known as a ring species, occupying a horseshoe-shaped range; as neighboring populations intermingle, genes flow around the horseshoe, but populations at its tips no longer interbreed and eventually become different species.

At left is a computational model of this process. According to the model, no adaptations or differences in reproductive fitness are necessary to produce new species. Rather, they seem to arise as a function of time and space; evolution itself is a generative, diversifying force.

Citation: “Evolution and stability of ring species.” By Ayana B. Martins, Marcus A. M. de Aguiar and Yaneer Bar-Yam. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 11, 2013.

3. A Fossil Insect's Forest Tale

At first glance, this computer re-creation of a 110 million-year-old fossil lacewing larvae might seem like eye candy. But what makes it special is the information it provides — not just about the insect's anatomy and the evolutionary history of its family, but the Early Cretaceous forests in which it lived. In modern lacewings, those frond-like shell structures catch small, fine hairs that grow on the surface of ferns, creating a fern-like camouflage coat. The fossil lacewing, surmise researchers, lived in forests burned regularly by wildfires, opening habitat in which ferns could grow.

Citation: "Early evolution and ecology of camouflage in insects." By Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente, Xavier Delclòs, Enrique Peñalver, Mariela Speranza, Jacek Wierzchos, Carmen Ascaso, and Michael S. Engel. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 109 No. 52, December 26, 2012.

4. Alan Turing's Fingers

Nearly six decades after Alan Turing's death, the British mathematician is still celebrated as a Nazi code-breaking World War II hero and father of modern computer science. His most enduring legacy, though, may be in biology: Late in his life, Turing theorized that a particular type of chemical interaction could account for many patterns observed in nature. In subsequent decades, scientists would find these Turing patterns in everything from cheetah spots to organ formation. In the image above, Turing patterns can be seen in the development of mouse fingers, just as they're seen in fish fin development — suggesting, say researchers, that some Turing-type mechanism is an ancestral feature of vertebrate evolution.

Citation: "Hox Genes Regulate Digit Patterning by Controlling the Wavelength of a Turing-Type Mechanism." By Rushikesh Sheth, Luciano Marcon, M. Félix Bastida, Marisa Junco, Laura Quintana, Randall Dahn, Marie Kmita, James Sharpe, Maria A. Ros. Science, Vol. 338 No. 6113, 14 December 2012.


5. The Sleep-Deprived Genome 

If you miss a night's sleep, you feel like a zombie — a phenomenon described at the genomic level in this comparison of gene expression in well-rested and sleep-deprived people. The two groups differ, not only in genes linked to sleep and circadian rhythms, but also to immune function cell, repair and stress response.


6. Mental CLARITY

A new technique for dissolving fatty molecules in biological tissue can be used to render organs transparent (below). Known, appropriately, as CLARITY, the technique's power becomes evident when combined with fluorescent tags that affix to particular cell types. The result: translucent, color-coded brains, such as the mouse brain above, that could give researchers a literal window into neurological function and anatomy.

Citation: "Structural and molecular interrogation of intact biological systems." By Kwanghun Chung, Jenelle Wallace, Sung-Yon Kim, Sandhiya Kalyanasundaram, Aaron S. Andalman, Thomas J. Davidson, Julie J. Mirzabekov, Kelly A. Zalocusky, Joanna Mattis, Aleksandra K. Denisin, Sally Pak, Hannah Bernstein, Charu Ramakrishnan, Logan Grosenick, Viviana Gradinaru & Karl Deisseroth. Nature, online publication 10 April 2013.


7. How Much Is a Forest Worth?

Jungle cleared late in the 19th century to build the Panama Canal grew back quickly; by 2000, when the United States gave control of the canal to Panama, the forests had largely recovered. Soon, however, they were threatened by commercial and residential development. This is problematic for many reasons: not only is the juncture of North and South America a biodiversity hotspot, but canal operations rely on dry-season water flows impacted by changes in forest cover.

Of course, when weighed against short-term profit, such well-meaning but fuzzy-sounding environmental arguments often lose. Enter ecosystem services, which quantifies nature's bottom-line financial worth to humans. For the map above, researchers calculated the annual value of sustainably managed Panamanian forests. They're worth far more as water-gathering, carbon-sequestering timber than as parking lots.

Citation: Bundling ecosystem services in the Panama Canal watershed." By Silvio Simonit and Charles Perrings. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 110 No. 23, 4 June 2013.


8. Parasitic Complexity

For decades, parasites were viewed primarily as pests: something to ignore, perhaps with a sniff of disgust, unless they harmed humans, in which case they were enemies. In recent years, though, scientists have come to appreciate the nuanced, often important roles played by parasites in animal life.

Much of that appreciation involves the relationship between parasites and immune system function, but there's an ecological angle, too. Witness this computer-modeled food web: When parasites are included in its parameters, it's revealed as a far more complex system than it appeared without them.

Citation: "Parasites Affect Food Web Structure Primarily through Increased Diversity and Complexity." By Jennifer A. Dunne, Kevin D. Lafferty, Andrew P. Dobson, Ryan F. Hechinger, Armand M. Kuris, Neo D. Martinez, John P. McLaughlin, Kim N. Mouritsen, Robert Poulin, Karsten Reise, Daniel B. Stouffer, David W. Thieltges, Richard J. Williams, Claus Dieter Zander. PLoS Biology, Vol. 11 No. 6, 11 June 2013


9. A Genome Is Not a Book

Until very recently, genomes were treated as linear strings of genetic information — something that could be read sequentially, DNA molecule by DNA molecule, like lines in a book. Inside our cells, though, our chromosomes are tangled in fabulously complex ways, and the shape of these tangles may be inseparable from their function.

New methods are being now developed to study real-time, real-shape genomes. Above is one such analysis: in a series of cell-nucleus snapshots, it captures gene activity across time and space. Activity proved to be coordinated in far-flung regions of the genome, but in ways that fluctuated over time. Structure itself is a form of information.

Citation: "Micron-scale coherence in interphase chromatin dynamics." By Alexandra Zidovska, David A. Weitz, and Timothy J. Mitchison. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, online publication 9 September 2013.


10. A Lost Underground Kingdom

Soil isn't just dirt. It's rich microbial ecosystems integral to the life that grows above. In the Great Plains, these ecosystems have been almost entirely wiped out: as tallgrass prairies were converted to farmland, soil composition changed, too. The microbial relationships that sustained one of Earth's great biomes were lost to time. Yet a few prairie fragments remain; by taking DNA samples from their soils, researchers reconstructed this vanished underground world.

Citation: "Reconstructing the Microbial Diversity and Function of Pre-Agricultural Tallgrass Prairie Soils in the United States." By Noah Fierer, Joshua Ladau, Jose C. Clemente, Jonathan W. Leff, Sarah M. Owens, Katherine S. Pollard, Rob Knight, Jack A. Gilbert, Rebecca L. McCulley. Science, Vol. 342 No. 6158, 1 November 2013.


11. Lunar Cycles, Life Cycles

In the North American arctic, populations of snowshoe hares, autumnal moths and Canada lynx rise and fall in 9.3 year-long cycles, moving in uncanny tandem with the time it takes for our moon's orbit to cross the sun's visual path. This might not be a coincidence. Solar and lunar cycles modulate Earth's exposure to cosmic rays, which are known to damage plant DNA; this could result in plants concentrating resources on cell repair, thus producing fewer of the indigestive compounds that typically serve as defense against predation.

Every 9.3 years, then, when the sun and moon are positioned just so, Arctic plants are at their most vulnerable; population booms among plant-hungry moth and hare soon follow, and are followed in turn by booms in rabbit-munching lynx. This synchronization of the celestial and ecological is still just a hypothesis, but it's a lovely one.

Citation: "Linking ‘10-year’ herbivore cycles to the lunisolar oscillation: the cosmic ray hypothesis." By Vidar Selås. Oikos, published online 12 September 2013.

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knukles's picture

Wired is the tits

SnobGobbler's picture

and no fukushima release model that is accurate?

somecallmetimmah's picture

Indeed. Everybody knows about the enormous, hot loads jetting relentlessly, pounding deeper, deeper, and deeper, overflowing the Fukushima's hot, wet entrance.

Hmmmm. Maybe we do need more $50,000 extra large, custom-fit rubbers?

Manthong's picture

"In recent years, though, scientists have come to appreciate the nuanced, often important roles played by parasites in animal life."

Does that mean there is some iota of value in a bankster or politician?

The Heart's picture

"and no fukushima release model that is accurate?"

They are all actually well disguised plume dispersal maps showing radiation spewage all over da place.

Just for fun:

aint no fortunate son's picture

Would love to see a wealth dispersion map showing the affects of QE on various population groups...

Haole's picture

Very cool post Tylers, thanks.

lewy14's picture

This is just a blatent cut/paste rip off of the Wired article.

Wired should DMCA it.

In Fed We Trust's picture

Frank Patrick White's Theory:

One aint no whistle blower if you get 6 months airtime.  In fact you aint a whistle blower if you get one day of airtime. 

That makes Eric Snonden, a lamb scarificed by the gov to put the fear into the people of wthat they were doing fucking 10 years ago. Also it makes for a great coverup , for what they are CURRENTLY doing. 

2nd Theory:  What do school shootings and natural diasters have in commmon?

They are staged by the government in order to influence the public mind.  School shootings for the agenda of Gun Control.  Natural Diasters to adavance the Global Warming Agenda,

which is right of Geroge Soros 'Playbook:  Theory Of Reflexitity: 

The natural diasters are  a  full on monty perfect racket.  It is instant stimuls spending, to the tunes of billions.  The lastest example being Boulder Colorado, "The Floods"

This one had several motives, from FEMA wanting to flush out all the rebels from the mountain towns, flood all the organic farms, and raise the water in the damn an inch for the hydro companies. 

FEMA pays for intelliegence, lwho the fuck lives with you, where the fuck do you lilve and what the fuck have you been up to?

SBA loans you fiat money to all be spent at Home Depotm, for that basaement you lost to the flood.  Your forced to buy insurance that dosn't even cover that type of flooding. 

The poor towns washed away to build mini masions for the Jews takeing over Boulder.  Billions are made in the clean up and rebuilding.  FEMA gets their intelligence.  And the hi tech survillence systems can be now fouond on every intersection in Boulder. These funkin RF readers came in with FEMA!! Here to stay on every fuckin block. 

Hallbuton buys the clean up company Rooter Tooter, weeks before the hurricane that cause the oil spill in Mexico. 

Japan is an old enemy, how just got shaked down by the military weather machine. 

If you havn't read about making earthquakes and hurricanes , google "H.A.R.P."  Its been around since the 70's

Lastly, the Exchanges where the weather derivatives contracts are traded have been in place for years.  Carbon credits is the future scheme to replace the fiat scheme. 

They just have to convince the world that global warming is happening with these natural diasters. So we can expect these natural diasters at least once a season, as welll as the school schootings. 

If one were to plot all these tradgies out, many similarites start to arise.

George , Im onto you , and your slimely theroy of reflextivity.  You sure are one fucking ugly dude.  Stick your SPecial Drawing Right up your ass and ......



somecallmetimmah's picture

"Nearly six decades after Alan Turing's death, the British mathematician is still celebrated as a Nazi code-breaking World War II hero and father of modern computer science."

Yeah, I bet *he* didn't wear $50,000 customized rubbers though, did he? Back in the day, ladies appreciated a nice, thick, warm load on a cold night.

knukles's picture

Alan was of a different persuasion...
For which he was punished dearly by the PTB
Like getting on somebody's ass in Britain because he's gay?
Cut me a break.

somecallmetimmah's picture

Ohhhhh,...I see. You mean he was a REAL freak. Like "Billy Gates" weird, eh?

Zero Point's picture

Bill gets his rocks off when people die en mass. It don't get freakier than that.

somecallmetimmah's picture

They don't call him the "Loadmaster" for nothing, do they?

q99x2's picture

A genetic breakout, which could be the result of biological terrorists, has caused what some are calling a Turing POMO to boost stocks as it spreads across the globe. First spotted in NYC it has now been witnessed in Belgium, Japan and Beijing.

somecallmetimmah's picture

Yea, I got yet 'genetic breakout' right here in my custom-fit, astroglide rubber, baby...

Wile-E-Coyote's picture

Yeah the persecution of Touring eventually lead him to take his own life. The ironic thing about this is the fact in the British Public school system, buggery is obligatory. You will find most plumb voiced 1%ers have massive arse holes. Constipation is never a problem!!!

New World Chaos's picture

That's an interesting argument for panspermia.  One question to answer is whether microbes have evolved larger genomes over the past few billion years.  I wonder if microbes that have spent billions of years just scraping by in deep rock have smaller genomes? 

Here's an interesting science visualization that shows how tracing chains of ownership reveals a network of 147 mostly financial companies that comprise a "superconnected super-entity" that secretly rules the world. has a bunch of nice plots about the nature of extrasolar planets.  The basic conclusion is that the common "super Earths" might not be nice places to live.  Many of them seem to be odd Venus-Neptune hybrids like this planet:

Yenbot's picture

You do realize that at some point in the future we all spin cocoons and pop out as starship building butterflies- don't you?

UP Forester's picture

Who's this "we", frenchy?

I don't know about you, but I'll be dead long before that, unless I get bitten by a radioactive spider created by Werner von Braun....

WarPony's picture

My take was that the "Christ" consciousness would well up within and we'd be our own butterfly starships off in 4D.

Radical Marijuana's picture

New World Chaos, I find it interesting to contemplate the fact that the genomes of all the different organisms that typically live inside, and upon, human beings is bigger than the human genome itself. In many ways, the "sexuality" of mircobes means that they are possibly interlinked into a super-organism more than we can currently imagine. Furthermore, the ancient symbiosis of the 3 major organelles, which enabled the creation of the eukaryotic cell, is the basis of our current multicellular life form, and those organelles have their own genome, as particularly exemplified by the mitochondria.

Therefore, human "individuals" are ACTUALLY an ancient an on-going ecology, where the DNA of other organism that are necessary for us to live is ACTUALLY bigger than the strictly human DNA itself. Truly, the neural networks that our neurons build, which enable us to construct a mental model of our world, including a model of ourselves inside of that model of our world, tends to be pathetically small, and isolated from its true reality. Indeed, I regard the REALITIES as being that human beings have BOTH an infinitely deep, and infinitely high, subconsciousness, and supraconsciousness, that we tend to take for granted.

Since we are almost totally dominated by the biggest bullies' bullshit social stories, (as illustrated by the degree of dominance of those "147" corporations that you mentioned), and those stories try to emphasize dominance relationships, and minimize interdependence relationships, most people operate with a model of the world, and a model of themselves within their model of their world, which is ridiculously restricted, and which operates with evil deliberate ignorance to the ways that we are interdependent with other life forms.

In general, it could barely be overstated that the biggest bullies' bullshit, as promoted through the banksters' ability to dominate the funding of social institutions, has resulted in the philosophy of science being just as much of a victim of lies as the financial system itself is based upon the runaway triumphant fraud of making "money" out of nothing, as debts. Indeed, we live inside of Bizarro Mirror World, where most of the most important things taught in schools, and repeated by the mass media, tended to have become the opposite of the way things really are.

tip e. canoe's picture

biggest bullies' bullshit

nice one doc, says it all in 3 words

Going Loco's picture

"network of 147 mostly financial companies that .... secretly rules the world. "

Nope. Flawed research. I owned shares (common stock) in 6 of those entities at around the time of the publication (not Lehman!). I still own shares in 5, which means I read the annual reports (yes, really) and I can tell you that they don't control anything except their own businesses and the power to sell their investments. One of the biggest complaints in recent years has been that institutional shareholders and banks don't do anything to guide the affairs of the entities in which they invest, they just cut and run or (worse still) do nothing when things go wrong. The idea that Barclays (or Lloyds for God's sake) are part of an international web of entities that control the world is just laughable, an amusing conspiracy theory for idiots that understand nothing about how large multinational financial entities actually function.

I think the reasearches may have misunderstood the taking of charges over common stock as tantamount to having voting rights, which it isn't, unless the charge crystalises.

I do agree with the assertion that interconnectedness can make a system unstable. That's just common sense. Pick-a-stick.

Apeman's picture

Very interesting stuff. Nice to see some real science for a change instead of economical voodoo.

mickeyman's picture

You might want to check out other sites in that case.

somecallmetimmah's picture

And bring your custom-fit rubbers with you. You'll thank me later.

IridiumRebel's picture

I see you've discovered alcohol.

knukles's picture

Whaddan insdie joke of all places, in Fight Club!


Atomizer's picture

For the last 48 hours, this window has remained open. Time to turn off politics/Federal Reserve creating money from their ass crack.

The Revelation Of The Pyramids


The email link encouraged me to watch.. looked to be a lengthy film.. Will see!

dogbreath's picture

Awsome videos

<---  some cocksucker jnked me ,  go figure


They take a bit of liberty saying all this was unknown  Egyptology was always considered a bit out there maybe like gold bugs but a lot of the information has been know through the collective work of every one going back to Napoleon's Savants.   I own this book that I bought back in the seventies  -


tip e. canoe's picture

good to see someone else delving into the secret history of the shiny.  there is plenty more out there, even in the hard science world.

q99x2's picture

Wow very nice. I got straight "A"s in my college (disclaimer: every now and then gunmen come in and kill students there) and am transferring to UCLA. Now I know what my brain doesn't look like and how my hands should have turned out. No I'm not paying for college with Bitcoin. I'm applying for Government grants.

Yen Cross's picture

    Something looks wrong with the parasite modeling. There's not enough parasitic density in the D.C. and southern New York areas.

Deficient Market's picture

Actually it looks quite accurate to me as you have to remember that graph does not represent only the density of the parasites themselves but also the rest of the ecosystem that depends on their existence. When you consider the density of the organisms that feed on the parasites located in those two locales then you notice they result in quite a wide dispersion of the overall density. As an example although the high end hookers are able to feed quite well off of them, they still tend to reside in locales outside and then commute to their feeding grounds. Same is true of the lawyers whose domicile tends to be more centered around the Grenwich, CT area. Then there are Bentley makers, with an epicenter across the pond, thereby significantly shifting the overall density. Also don't forget the cotton growers in China and electronics industry in Taiwan, whose main purpose is to sustain the gigantic printing mechanisms that sustain the alpha parasite's existence.

Overall, this has really opened my eyes as to the great benefits to our diversity that stem from our alpha parasites' existence. Although I can't find a specific reference, I am quite certain this research was somehow funded by the NY Fed

Whoa Dammit's picture

Monsanto needs to study up on #9 A Genome Is Not A Book.

Also, why do forrests only seem to matter when they are located in a 3rd world country, meanwhile it seemingly is a good thing when we turn ours into parking lots?

somecallmetimmah's picture

Cutting down forests is the surest prevention of forest fires. You're not in favor of forest fires, are you Mr. Himmler?

logicalman's picture

Monsanto needs to be destroyed.

Hedgetard55's picture

Lord Kelvin knew Darwinism was complete bullshit, and said so. Keynesianism is almost as bad.

Radical Marijuana's picture

Darwinism was NOT complete bullshit, but he was unaware of many things, and therefore, Darwinism had some serious blind spots and inadequacies. However, the basic theory of evolution is consistent with the notion that theories about evolution ought to also evolve.