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mouse veins: exciting

In Silico Flurries: Computing a world of snow. Scientific American. 23 December 2017

visualization + design

Cover image accompanying our article on mouse vasculature development. Biology turns astrophysical. PNAS 1 May 2012; 109 (18) (zoom, PNAS)

Creating the PNAS Cover

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))

Tools

Photoshop CS5, Nik Color Efex Pro 4, Alien Skin Bokeh 2 and a cup of coffee from a Rancilio Silvia.

source images

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!

Mouse carotid arteries. (zoom)
Mouse carotid arteries. (zoom)
Mouse carotid arteries. (zoom)
Mouse carotid arteries. (zoom)
Mouse carotid arteries. (zoom)
Mouse carotid arteries. (zoom)
Mouse carotid arteries. (zoom)
Mouse carotid arteries. (zoom)
Mouse carotid arteries. (zoom)

memories of star trek

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.

Enterprise is about to be consumed by a horror tube: a planet killer! (The Doomsday Machine)
Enterprise heads into a giant amoeba. Who eats whom? I'll let you guess. (The Immunity Syndrome)
Orion nebula (M42) as seen by the Hubble telescope. (zoom)

I though it would be pretty easy to make the artery images look all-outer-spacey. They already looked it.

centerpiece image

And then I saw the image below.

A particularly spectacular image of a mouse carotid artery. I'm thinking 10 on the Torino scale. (zoom)

constructing the cover

background

The background was created from the two images shown here. The second image was sampled three times, at different rotations.

Images used for background. (zoom)
Images used for background. (zoom)
Layer composition for background elements. (zoom)

The channel mixer was used to remove the green channel and leave only red and blue.

Background elements for PNAS cover image. (zoom)

middle ground

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.

First set of middle ground elements, before adjustments. (zoom)
First set of middle ground elements, after channel adjustments. (zoom)
Second set of middle ground elements. (zoom)
Layer composition for middle ground elements. (zoom)

When the foreground and middle ground elements were combined, the result was already 40 parsecs away.

Background and foreground elements for PNAS cover image. (zoom)

foreground

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).

Foreground element, after channel adjustments. (zoom)
Layer composition for foreground element. (zoom)

post processing

Initial composition of background, middle ground and foreground elements. (zoom)
40% localized application of Nik's Tonal Contrast (Color Efex 4 plugin) to increase structure in red channel. (zoom)
50% blend with Nik's Pro Contrast (Color Efex 4 plugin). (zoom)

And here we have the final image.

Final PNAS cover. Spacey! (zoom)
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Curse(s) of dimensionality

Tue 05-06-2018
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

We discuss the many ways in which analysis can be confounded when data has a large number of dimensions (variables). Collectively, these are called the "curses of dimensionality".

Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Curse(s) of dimensionality. (read)

Some of these are unintuitive, such as the fact that the volume of the hypersphere increases and then shrinks beyond about 7 dimensions, while the volume of the hypercube always increases. This means that high-dimensional space is "mostly corners" and the distance between points increases greatly with dimension. This has consequences on correlation and classification.

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2018) Points of significance: Curse(s) of dimensionality Nature Methods 15:399–400.

Statistics vs Machine Learning

Tue 03-04-2018
We conclude our series on Machine Learning with a comparison of two approaches: classical statistical inference and machine learning. The boundary between them is subject to debate, but important generalizations can be made.

Inference creates a mathematical model of the datageneration process to formalize understanding or test a hypothesis about how the system behaves. Prediction aims at forecasting unobserved outcomes or future behavior. Typically we want to do both and know how biological processes work and what will happen next. Inference and ML are complementary in pointing us to biologically meaningful conclusions.

Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Statistics vs machine learning. (read)

Statistics asks us to choose a model that incorporates our knowledge of the system, and ML requires us to choose a predictive algorithm by relying on its empirical capabilities. Justification for an inference model typically rests on whether we feel it adequately captures the essence of the system. The choice of pattern-learning algorithms often depends on measures of past performance in similar scenarios.

Bzdok, D., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2018) Points of Significance: Statistics vs machine learning. Nature Methods 15:233–234.

Bzdok, D., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2017) Points of Significance: Machine learning: a primer. Nature Methods 14:1119–1120.

Bzdok, D., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2017) Points of Significance: Machine learning: supervised methods. Nature Methods 15:5–6.

Happy 2018 $\pi$ Day—Boonies, burbs and boutiques of $\pi$

Wed 14-03-2018

Celebrate $\pi$ Day (March 14th) and go to brand new places. Together with Jake Lever, this year we shrink the world and play with road maps.

Streets are seamlessly streets from across the world. Finally, a halva shop on the same block!

A great 10 km run loop between Istanbul, Copenhagen, San Francisco and Dublin. Stop off for halva, smørrebrød, espresso and a Guinness on the way. (details)

Intriguing and personal patterns of urban development for each city appear in the Boonies, Burbs and Boutiques series.

In the Boonies, Burbs and Boutiques of $\pi$ we draw progressively denser patches using the digit sequence 159 to inform density. (details)

No color—just lines. Lines from Marrakesh, Prague, Istanbul, Nice and other destinations for the mind and the heart.

Roads from cities rearranged according to the digits of $\pi$. (details)

The art is featured in the Pi City on the Scientific American SA Visual blog.

Check out art from previous years: 2013 $\pi$ Day and 2014 $\pi$ Day, 2015 $\pi$ Day, 2016 $\pi$ Day and 2017 $\pi$ Day.

Machine learning: supervised methods (SVM & kNN)

Thu 18-01-2018
Supervised learning algorithms extract general principles from observed examples guided by a specific prediction objective.

We examine two very common supervised machine learning methods: linear support vector machines (SVM) and k-nearest neighbors (kNN).

SVM is often less computationally demanding than kNN and is easier to interpret, but it can identify only a limited set of patterns. On the other hand, kNN can find very complex patterns, but its output is more challenging to interpret.

Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Machine learning: supervised methods (SVM & kNN). (read)

We illustrate SVM using a data set in which points fall into two categories, which are separated in SVM by a straight line "margin". SVM can be tuned using a parameter that influences the width and location of the margin, permitting points to fall within the margin or on the wrong side of the margin. We then show how kNN relaxes explicit boundary definitions, such as the straight line in SVM, and how kNN too can be tuned to create more robust classification.

Bzdok, D., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2018) Points of Significance: Machine learning: a primer. Nature Methods 15:5–6.