Visualizations take you inside science

The National Science Foundation and the journal Science announce the winners of last year's contest for the best visualizations in science and engineering.

Ever wonder what a carbon nanotube looks like? This illustration of a variable carbon nanotube gets you up close. Joel Brehm/Science

One of the challenges facing many scientists in lesser-known fields is communicating what it is they work on. A contest aims to advance scientific research--while demystifying it for the general public--through visualizations.

The National Science Foundation and the journal Science announced the winners of the 2011 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge on Friday. "These winners communicate science in a manner that not only captures your attention but in many instances also strives to look at different ways to solve scientific problems through their varied art forms," said Monica Bradford, executive editor of Science, which is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

It's the ninth year they've held the contest, which attracted entries from 33 countries and for the first time included a people's choice award through online voting. The categories were Photography; Illustration; Informational Posters and Graphics; Interactive Games; and Videos.

With so much emerging technology research done at the microscopic scale or in the cosmos, visualizations help show the beauty in science and make the work of so many disciplines more accessible.