We created a piece of art for Pint of Science which is an international organisation which brings together detailed science talks on a wide range of cutting-edge research, in an informal pub setting, with plenty of beer.
We used data from the Protein Data Bank to build an illustration showing the battle between a tumour and the immune system. The tumour has expressed proteins to suppress T-cell activity, but a synthetic drug (yellow) acts to block the receptors on the T-cells, meaning that the T-cells are not suppressed and are able to attack the tumour. This was created for Pint of Science, to accompany a talk in Cambridge.
We were hired by BBC Earth to produce a series of three animations to accompany a longform article on the Origins of Life. As this was quite a technical article, the videos were to provide some visual relief, explaining some of the complex concepts more clearly. These focused on:
DNA, and how it assembles and replicates, allowing the storage and duplication of all the information needed to build an organism;
RNA, and how it codes for proteins, which are essential for life. In the primordial soup, it may have been the first carrier of genetic information, as it is able to store information, replicated and catalyse reactions;
ATP, which is used to power every cell. Proton pumps create a concentration gradient, which forces protons through the ATP synthase motor, which turns ADP into ATP, storing energy inside them that can be transported around the cell and used where needed.
We focused on a high visual quality, while still using real molecular structures throughout. You can read the article online here:
We were recently hired to produce a series of animation clips for Science Photo Library, showing some of the complex nuclear fusion reactions that occur in the Sun, including the CNO cycle at the end. Here is a selection of our favourites!
Science Photo Library provides licensing of striking specialist science imagery, with more than 350,000 images and 20,000 clips.
Animation of a zoom out from the inside of a single atom to the entire galaxy.
The first scene shows a single quark, one of three making up a proton (red) in the nucleus of an atom. The nucleus is surrounded by electron shells (blue). The atom is one making up one of the bases (green) in a DNA molecule, which itself makes up a chromosome (X shape) inside the nucleus (white) of a human cell (red). The cell is part of the heart, and the view pulls back from the person’s body showing the streets and buildings of Manhattan, New York City, USA. The pull back continues to show the Earth in its orbit around the Sun, with the orbits of the other planets shown. The Sun is just one of some 500 billion stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way. The Milky Way is thought to be some 120,000 light years in diameter (about 1.14 zettametres, or 1.14×101 metres). The proton has a charge radius of between 0.84-0.88 femtometres, or 8.4×1016 metres.
Our visualisation of the complex decay chain of a uranium atom has just been chosen as Science Photo Library‘s clip of the week.
U-238 is a radioactive element with 92 protons (red), indicated to the lower left of its chemical symbol, and 146 neutrons (yellow), giving it a total atomic mass of 238 (upper left of symbol). It is unstable and decays by emission of an alpha particle, which consists of two protons and two neutrons.
We were recently hired to produce a series of animation clips for Science Photo Library, showing how various things work. Here are our favourite eight!
Clip 1 ) Catalytic converter. It consists of a honeycomb structure, which provides a large surface area. The inside surface is lined with the catalyst, which is a combination of rhodium (Rh) and platinum (Pt) metals. On the rhodium, nitrogen oxides (nitric oxide, NO, shown here) are reduced to nitrogen and oxygen. On the platinum, carbon monoxide (CO) reacts with oxygen to form carbon dioxide; Clip 2 ) Fuel cell. Hydrogen is introduced at the anode side, and oxygen at the cathode. A catalyst splits the hydrogen into two protons and electrons. The membrane allows the protons through to the cathode, but forces the electrons down a wire. The flow of electrons through the wire can perform electrical work. On the cathode side, the protons and electrons react with an oxygen atom, forming water; Clip 3 ) Photocopier. Inside the machine is a rotating drum covered in a photoconductive material. The drum is charged by a corona wire (also covered in +). A bright light is used to illuminate the paper to be copied. The light is reflected via a system of mirrors to the charged drum. The photoconductive coating becomes conductive when exposed to light, so the bright, reflective regions of the paper cause the drum surface to discharge in the same pattern. A toner (negatively charged) is then applied to the drum, and is attracted to the positively charged regions, forming a toner pattern identical to the original. A blank sheet of paper is then charged and is passed under the drum, transferring the toner to the paper, reproducing the initial image; Clip 4 ) Electron Microscope. An electron gun at the top of the column produces a beam of fast-moving electrons. These are focused by magnetic lenses , which deflect the negatively-charged electrons. A sample is introduced into the beam, absorbing and interacting with some electrons, and the remainder are focused onto a screen at the bottom; Clip 5 ) PET scanner. The patient ingests the fluorodeoxyglucose, a radioactive tracer, and it spreads throughout the body like normal glucose, being absorbed by more active tissues, including tumours. However, the chemical has been designed to contain a radioactive 18-F fluorine atom in place of one of the normal hydroxide groups. When it decays, it emits a positron (red), which quickly collides with an electron (blue), leading to the annihilation of both, and the emission of two gamma rays (yellow) in opposite directions. The PET scanner detects these gamma rays, and uses them to locate tissues with a high glucose uptake, as seen on the screen; Clip 6 ) Nuclear reactor. This is a pressurised water reactor, the most common type in operation. At the heat of the reactor is the core, which contains the nuclear fuel, uranium. When a neutron (yellow) hits a U-235 nucleus, it undergoes fission (left inset), releasing three more neutrons. Initially these neutrons are very fast, reducing the chances that they’ll fission another U-235 atom. However, the reactor core contains water under high pressure. Water acts as a neutron moderator (central inset), slowing it down and increasing its chances of fissioning another U-235 (right inset). This process continues in a chain reaction, producing a large amount of heat. To help control the rate of the reaction, control rods can be raised or lowered into the core. These contain boron-10 (inset), which has a high neutron absorption capability, reducing the number of neutrons available for fission. Outside the core, the hot water from the reactor (orange) is passed into a secondary water system in heat-exchanging pipes. This converts the cool water (blue) into steam (red), which drives a conventional electricity generating turbine, which sends power out to the grid; Clip 7 ) Loudspeaker. Inside the loudspeaker is a magnet, with the south pole surrounded by a coil of wire attached to a paper cone. When the wire carries a current, I, it induces a magnetic field around the wire. This interacts with the field of the magnet, producing a force that moves the coil. The direction of the movement can be predicted using a left-hand rule, demonstrated at bottom left. This moves the coil and its attached cone, which generates sound waves. Controlling the varying current flowing in the wire therefore controls the vibration of the cone, and hence the sound it produces; Clip 8 ) CD player. Animation showing how the tracks of microscopic bumps on a CD’s surface are used to encode digital data. If you compare a reference beam and the data beam, you can see that a change in the surface causes constructive or destructive interference with the outgoing beam, and so the changes in topology can be detected. A change in the surface topology is registered as a 1 and no change is registered as a 0. Science Photo Library provides licensing of striking specialist science imagery, with more than 350,000 images and 20,000 clips.
Please contact us for more information.
Other than it having an awful name, we’re super excited to have an illustration shortlisted in the Vizzies, which is run by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Popular Science magazine (which I buy to look at the pretty pictures).
Do please cast your vote, and if you happen to like ours best (hint hint), that would be really cool as we’ll get printed in Popular Science.
(1) The transcription of DNA to mRNA,
(2) Translation of mRNA to protein chains,
(3) The mechanism of how smoking can alter DNA and prevent normal DNA function,
(4) UV radiation damaging DNA structure,
(5) Nuclear radiation causing a DNA mutation,
(6) Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), where an individual strand of DNA is multiplied many times by cycling the temperature.
An illustration created for the O’Reilly Research Group at the Unviersity of Nottingham, to illustrate the concept of using Darwinian selection to find better proteins, by making many small tweaks to their structure and selecting ones that are most effective at each stage. The image mimics the famous monkey-to-man depiction of evolution, but using secondary protein structures that evolve and form functional structures.