Penny Thoughts

Month: July, 2014

Microbial Art- Combining Science and Art

bloody mary

As a biologists I have spent too many hours than I’d care to admit in the lab. For a lot of that time I was trying to think of ways to find some fun in the rather dull and controlled environment. If only I had found these amazing pieces of art sooner.

A lot of work I have done has dealt with growing cells on petri dishes. This is not the most exciting of activities, but some very talented artists and scientists have found a way to make art from growing cell cultures.

The work is know as Microbial art and has been put together by  Dr. T. Ryan Gregory. It is a collection of various artists and scientists’ works brought together to show the beauty that is present in a normally “invisible” world.

I love this idea of using pretty dull lab procedures to make really individual pieces of art. Here’s a few I found when looking around the website.

image8_1This and the photo at the top of this post are by Dr Ben Jacob and you can see all of his work here. These pictures may look like paint or ink, but it is in fact made up of billions of living bacterial cells.

This picture is great as it shows the art within the petri dish itself rather than snapshots of portions of the dish like Dr Ben Jacobs and the below Erno-Erik Raitanen’s work. This piece is one of a collection of works done by the iGEM team in Osaka using  Salmonella Typhimurium bacteria that are expressing proteins that lead to fluorescence.

bacteriogram2This piece is by a Finnish artist called Erno-Erik Raitanen. This is another great piece of work using bacteria and growing them on a film negative with gelatin on the surface. The bacteria eat the gelatin and that leads to the amazing patterns seen in the photos. The film negatives are then developed and the beautiful results can be seen here.

These are only a few pictures from a huge collection that can all be found of the microbial art website. Have a browse about, some of the results are incredible. These pieces are bridging the gap that exists between science and art, and have really opened my eyes to the beauty that is hidden away from us normally.

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Bee Big Brother: A Unique Insight into the Secret Lives of Bees

Explore.org have created Bee Cam, a live stream from inside a honeybee hive, to provide us with a unique insight into the inner workings of a living bee colony.

No matter how large our curiosity may be, in reality we cannot go about sticking our heads in beehives (for obvious reasons). So instead the folks at explore.org have provided the virtual alternative to this potentially deadly idea.

Live streaming video by Ustream

From the creators of Bear Cam and Bird Cams, explore.org have carefully positioned cameras within and at the entrance to a beehive in Waal, Germany. The stream is in HD, completely live and runs 24hrs a day to fulfill all of your bee watching needs. You can even take snapshots of the live footage if a particularly photogenic bee comes along.

Bee Cam is providing a rare glimpse into the lives of one of the world’s most rapidly declining group of insects. Bees are facing a multitude of threats including colony collapse disorderclimate change, disease, and the heavily covered threat of pesticides. The mystery killer, Colony Collapse Disorder alone is thought to have contributed to the collapse of over 10 million colonies in the last 6 years.

The colony of bees being observed by Bee Cam are in the process of recovering from a colony collapse. This Big Brother of the bee world is allowing a crucial insight into how these colonies respond to colony collapse and what behaviours they undergo to recover from such an event.


Live streaming video by Ustream

You can watch the honey bees carry out many behaviours including cell cleaning and capping, comb building and honey making. You can also observe how the individual bees interact; undergoing behaviours like grooming which help to maintain the cooperative life strategy that these bees abide by.

If you have some spare time, head over to explore.org to watch these busy bees go about their dayly business. If like me you are an avid bee fan then you will love this amazing glimpse into their lives.

Luke Jerram- Glass Microbiology

Luke Jerram increases the microbiological world by 1 million times to show the beauty of the cells and pathogens that can both take away and create life.

Being a biology lover I get rather excited when biology reaches the art world. When I found these sculptures by Luke Jerram I couldn’t wait to share them on here.

Scultpures were made of numerous different pathogenic and non- pathogenic creatures including viruses, bacteria, and apicomplexa, including E. coli, adenovirus, malaria and salmonella. All sculptures are scientifically accurate and have even been used as a teaching tool in the fields of microbiology. The sculptures allow people to see these pathogens as large, 3D entities rather than the coloured, 2D forms most people are used to. This means people can really get a grasp of them as whole orgnisms rather than simply pictures in books.

The reason why these sculptures are so important is that they provide a accurate representation of the (lack of) colour of these pathogens. Unlike what many people may believe, these pathogens are in fact colourless, but due to the tecniques used in microscopy, the pathogens have to be dyed to be observed.

This means that the pictures of these critters that we are accustomed to seeing are false-coloured. Without staining, these pathogens could not be seen and therefore it has to be done. But Luke Jerram’s work has provided the opportunity to see the pathogens as their more transparent selves.

Members of the collection are currently residents at The Museum of Art and Desing (NYC), The National Glass Centre (UK), Pittsburg Glass Museum and Caixa Museum Madrid. If you are lucky enough to get the opportunity to go to one of these exhibitions.. do it!

If you want to find out more about these not-so-micro entities then visit the Luke Jerram Glass Microbiology website here. It is full of lots of information about the exhibitions and beautiful photos of some of Jerram’s work. I’ll share a few more photos here becuase I can’t narrow it down to a couple as they are all too stunning.