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# art is science is art

Scientific graphical abstracts — design guidelines

# 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)

# Music for the Moon: Flunk's 'Down Here / Moon Above'

Sat 29-05-2021

The Sanctuary Project is a Lunar vault of science and art. It includes two fully sequenced human genomes, sequenced and assembled by us at Canada's Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre.

The first disc includes a song composed by Flunk for the (eventual) trip to the Moon.

But how do you send sound to space? I describe the inspiration, process and art behind the work.

The song 'Down Here / Moon Above' from Flunk's new album History of Everything Ever is our song for space. It appears on the Sanctuary genome discs, which aim to send two fully sequenced human genomes to the Moon. (more)

# Happy 2021 $\pi$ Day—A forest of digits

Sun 14-03-2021

Celebrate $\pi$ Day (March 14th) and finally see the digits through the forest.

The 26th tree in the digit forest of $\pi$. Why is there a flower on the ground?. (details)

This year is full of botanical whimsy. A Lindenmayer system forest – deterministic but always changing. Feel free to stop and pick the flowers from the ground.

The first 46 digits of $\pi$ in 8 trees. There are so many more. (details)

And things can get crazy in the forest.

A forest of the digits of '\pi$, by ecosystem. (details) Check out art from previous years: 2013$\pi$Day and 2014$\pi$Day, 2015$\pi$Day, 2016$\pi$Day, 2017$\pi$Day, 2018$\pi$Day and 2019$\pi` Day.

# Testing for rare conditions

Sun 30-05-2021

All that glitters is not gold. —W. Shakespeare

The sensitivity and specificity of a test do not necessarily correspond to its error rate. This becomes critically important when testing for a rare condition — a test with 99% sensitivity and specificity has an even chance of being wrong when the condition prevalence is 1%.

We discuss the positive predictive value (PPV) and how practices such as screen can increase it.

Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Testing for rare conditions. (read)

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2021) Points of significance: Testing for rare conditions. Nature Methods 18:224–225.

# Standardization fallacy

Tue 09-02-2021

We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty! —D. Adams

A popular notion about experiments is that it's good to keep variability in subjects low to limit the influence of confounding factors. This is called standardization.

Unfortunately, although standardization increases power, it can induce unrealistically low variability and lead to results that do not generalize to the population of interest. And, in fact, may be irreproducible.

Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Standardization fallacy. (read)

Not paying attention to these details and thinking (or hoping) that standardization is always good is the "standardization fallacy". In this column, we look at how standardization can be balanced with heterogenization to avoid this thorny issue.

Voelkl, B., Würbel, H., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2021) Points of significance: Standardization fallacy. Nature Methods 18:5–6.