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Tango is a sad thought that is danced.Enrique Santos Discépolothink & dance


More than Pretty Pictures—Aesthetics of Data Representation, Denmark, April 13–16, 2015


visualization + design

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
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!

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Mouse carotid arteries. (zoom)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Mouse carotid arteries. (zoom)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Mouse carotid arteries. (zoom)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Mouse carotid arteries. (zoom)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Mouse carotid arteries. (zoom)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Mouse carotid arteries. (zoom)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Mouse carotid arteries. (zoom)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Mouse carotid arteries. (zoom)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
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.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Enterprise is about to be consumed by a horror tube: a planet killer! (The Doomsday Machine)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Enterprise heads into a giant amoeba. Who eats whom? I'll let you guess. (The Immunity Syndrome)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
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.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
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.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Images used for background. (zoom)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Images used for background. (zoom)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Layer composition for background elements. (zoom)

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

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
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.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
First set of middle ground elements, before adjustments. (zoom)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
First set of middle ground elements, after channel adjustments. (zoom)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Second set of middle ground elements. (zoom)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Layer composition for middle ground elements. (zoom)

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

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
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).

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Foreground element, before adjustments. (zoom)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Foreground element, after channel adjustments. (zoom)
Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Layer composition for foreground element. (zoom)

post processing

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

And here we have the final image.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Final PNAS cover. Spacey! (zoom)

news + thoughts

Color palettes for color blindness

Sun 01-03-2015

In an audience of 8 men and 8 women, chances are 50% that at least one has some degree of color blindness1. When encoding information or designing content, use colors that is color-blind safe.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
A 12-color palette safe for color blindness

Points of Significance Column Now Open Access

Tue 10-02-2015

Nature Methods has announced the launch of a new statistics collection for biologists.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column is now open access. (column archive)

As part of that collection, announced that the entire Points of Significance collection is now open access.

This is great news for educators—the column can now be freely distributed in classrooms.

...more about the Points of Significance column

Before and After—Designing Tiny Figures for Nature Methods

Tue 13-01-2015

I've posted a writeup about the design and redesign process behind the figures in our Nature Methods Points of Significance column.

I have selected several figures from our past columns and show how they evolved from their draft to published versions.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Fig 2 from Points of Significance: Nested designs. (Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Nature Methods 11:977-978.) (...more)

Clarity, concision and space constraints—we have only 3.4" of horizontal space— all have to be balanced for a figure to be effective.

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Fig 2c (excerpt) from Points of Significance: Designing comparative experiments. (Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Nature Methods 11:597-598.) (...more)

It's nearly impossible to find case studies of scientific articles (or figures) through the editing and review process. Nobody wants to show their drafts. With this writeup I hope to add to this space and encourage others to reveal their process. Students love this. See whether you agree with my decisions!

Sources of Variation

Thu 08-01-2015

Past columns have described experimental designs that mitigate the effect of variation: random assignment, blocking and replication.

The goal of these designs is to observe a reproducible effect that can be due only to the treatment, avoiding confounding and bias. Simultaneously, to sample enough variability to estimate how much we expect the effect to differ if the measurements are repeated with similar but not identical samples (replicates).

Martin Krzywinski @MKrzywinski mkweb.bcgsc.ca
Nature Methods Points of Significance column: Sources of Variation. (read)

We need to distinguish between sources of variation that are nuisance factors in our goal to measure mean biological effects from those that are required to assess how much effects vary in the population.

Altman, N. & Krzywinski, M. (2014) Points of Significance: Two Factor Designs Nature Methods 11:5-6.

Background reading

1. Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of Significance: Designing Comparative Experiments Nature Methods 11:597-598.

2. Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of Significance: Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and blocking Nature Methods 11:699-700.

3. Blainey, P., Krzywinski, M. & Altman, N. (2014) Points of Significance: Replication Nature Methods 11:879-880.

...more about the Points of Significance column