One of my goals in life, which I can now say has been accomplished, is to make biology look like astrophysics. Call it my love for the Torino Impact Hazard Scale.
Recently, I was given an opportunity to attend to this (admittedly vague) goal when Linda Chang from Aly Karsan's group approached me with some microscopy photos of mouse veins. I was asked to do "something" with these images for a cover submission to accompany the manuscript.
When people see my covers, sometimes they ask "How did you do that?" Ok, actually they never ask this. But being a scientist, I'm trained me to produce answers in anticipation of such questions. So, below, I show you how the image was constructed.
The image was published on the cover of PNAS (PNAS 1 May 2012; 109 (18))
Below are a few of the images I had the option to work with. These are mouse embryonic blood vessels, with a carotid artery shown in the foreground with endothelial cells in green, vascular smooth muscle cells in red and the nuclei in blue.
Of course, as soon as I saw the images, I realized that there was very little that I needed to do to trigger the viewer's imagination. These photos were great!
Immediately I thought of two episodes of Star Trek (original series): Doomsday Machine and the Immunity Syndrome, as well as of images from the Hubble Telescope.
I though it would be pretty easy to make the artery images look all-outer-spacey. They already looked it.
And then I saw the image below.
The background was created from the two images shown here. The second image was sampled three times, at different rotations.
The channel mixer was used to remove the green channel and leave only red and blue.
The next layer was composed of what looked like ribbons of blue gas. This was created by sampling the oval shapes from the source images. Here the red channel was a great source for cloud shapes, and this was the only channel that was kept. The hue was shifted to blue and a curve adjustment was applied to increase the contrast.
When the foreground and middle ground elements were combined, the result was already 40 parsecs away.
The foreground was created from the spectacular comet-like image of a mouse artery. Very little had to be done to make this element look good. It already looked good.
I applied a little blur using Alien Skin's Bokeh 2 to narrow the apparent depth of field, masked out elements at the bottom of the image and removed some of the green channel. The entire blue channel was removed altogether (this gave the tail of the comet a mottled, flame-like appearance).
And here we have the final image.
We look at what happens how uncertainty of two variables combines and how this impacts the increased uncertainty when two samples are compared and highlight the differences between the two-sample and paired t-tests.
When performing any statistical test, it's important to understand and satisfy its requirements. The t-test is very robust with respect to some of its assumptions, but not others. We explore which.
Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of Significance: Comparing Samples — Part I Nature Methods 11:215-216.
Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2013) Points of Significance: Significance, P values and t-tests Nature Methods 10:1041-1042.
Beautiful Science explores how our understanding of ourselves and our planet has evolved alongside our ability to represent, graph and map the mass data of the time. The exhibit runs 20 February — 26 May 2014 and is free to the public. There is a good Nature blog writeup about it, a piece in The Guardian, and a great video that explains the the exhibit narrated by Johanna Kieniewicz, the curator.
I am privileged to contribute an information graphic to the exhibit in the Tree of Life section. The piece shows how sequence similarity varies across species as a function of evolutionary distance. The installation is a set of 6 30x30 cm backlit panels. They look terrific.
Quick, name three chart types. Line, bar and scatter come to mind. Perhaps you said pie too—tsk tsk. Nobody ever thinks of the box plot.
Box plots reveal details about data without overloading a figure with a full frequency distribution histogram. They're easy to compare and now easy to make with BoxPlotR (try it). In our fifth Points of Significance column, we take a break from the theory to explain this plot type and—I hope— convince you that they're worth thinking about.
The February issue of Nature Methods kicks the bar chart two more times: Dan Evanko's Kick the Bar Chart Habit editorial and a Points of View: Bar charts and box plots column by Mark Streit and Nils Gehlenborg.
Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of Significance: Visualizing samples with box plots Nature Methods 11:119-120.
For specialists, visualizations should expose detail to allow for exploration and inspiration. For enthusiasts, they should provide context, integrate facts and inform. For the layperson, they should capture the essence of the topic, narrate a story and deligt.
Wired's Brandon Keim wrote up a short article about me and some of my work—Circle of Life: The Beautiful New Way to Visualize Biological Data.