Reader Su called my attention to this really clever contest that garnered some amazing entries. I love it because it represents the fusion of art and science. What you’ll see below are the winners (and some other entries) in the American Society for Microbiology’s “Agar Art” contest, as shown by Stumbleupon (see also here).
If you look at the entries, the rules were clear: create a piece of art using only a Petri dish, nutrient agar, and various species of microbes. Those microbes differ in texture and color, and so, depending on how you inoculate the culture, you can get some nice designs. First the winners:
The titles and artist/scientist creators of the next plates weren’t given, but they’re really nice plates:
A special Halloween entry:
I’ll add here my own attempt at this kind of stuff. My Ph.D. work involved revealing how much genetic variation there was at some enzyme loci by performing “gel electrophoresis”: separating variant enzymes by putting them on a gel subjected to an electric field, letting the variants of different size and charge separate over several hours, and then using specific stains to visualize the enzymes. This isn’t done much any more (DNA sequencing is easier), but in in the old days you’d get gels like this (not my gel):
You can see several variants here, as well as heterozygotes, which have two forms of an enzyme and thus produce two bands.
After diligently doing this with a highly variable gene (esterase-5), I decided to produce a gel with legible words on it for my job talks. After some careful experimentation and calculation, and injecting gel lanes with several variants mixed together, I was able to spell “THE END” on a gel, and it was very clear. I used that as the last slide of my electrophoresis talks, and I still think it’s the only time that anybody’s used gel electrophoresis of any sort to spell out a phrase. (I’m sure a reader will correct me here!).
I have it only on a 35 mm Kodachrome slide, which is how we gave talks back in the Eocene, and I wasn’t going to show it, but I just went ahead and used my iPhone to take a photo of the gel slide held up against the sky. Nice, eh?: