Tabletop Whale is an original science illustration blog.

Made with love by a PhD student at the University of Washington. Original charts, infographics, and science illustrations.

Virus trading cards

April 11 2016


This week I made a set of virus trading cards! Viruses are surprisingly symmetrical, and I love them because they remind me of a biological version of snowflakes. Each trading card shows you the structure of the viral capsid - the protein shell protecting the genetic material inside a virus.

To make the 3D animations I used UCSF Chimera, a free molecular modeling program. When scientists discover a new protein structure they upload it to the worldwide Protein Data Bank. Each entry is assigned a unique ID number, which you can use to call up the structure in programs like Chimera or PyMol.

I used Tom Goddard’s tutorial to learn how to display viral capsids, and it’s actually a fairly simple process. You can even 3D print structures straight from Chimera , which is awesome and might have to be my next project.

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Here there be robots: A medieval map of Mars

February 27 2016


It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since the last time I posted something on this blog! I’ve actually made a lot of infographics in the meantime, but most of them are caught up in production with some of my collaborators. Hopefully I’ll be able to share them soon :)

Recently I’ve been really into old maps made by medieval explorers. I thought it would be fun to use their historical design style to illustrate our current adventures into unexplored territory. So here’s my hand-drawn topographic map of Mars, complete with official landmark names and rover landing sites.

To add a little something extra, I included the history of each place name on the map. Martian craters are named after famous scientists (for large craters) or small villages on Earth (small craters). Since the base map is hand-drawn I also added an overlay of actual NASA topographic imagery. This way even if some of my lines are a little off, you can still see what the actual ground looks like underneath.

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Planet Earth Control Deck

January 26 2015


It’s January already, which means it’s tax season! I dislike filing taxes as much as the next person, but I figured I might as well make the most of it this year. So I made an infographic celebrating one of my favorite tax-funded programs in America - NASA.

I wanted to show what Earth’s control panel might look like if it was a spaceship piloted by humans. It’s a bit too busy with all the flashing lights, but I was going for a mix between sci-fi and pinball so I’m still pretty happy with how it turned out. All of the data should be scientifically accurate, even if it’s moving too fast to read properly.

As a side note, this might be the only infographic I post for a while. I’m working on a pretty extensive non-science art project right now, and it’s been taking up a lot of my time. I was also invited to be on the panel of judges for the Malofiej Infographics Summit in Spain, so I’m going to be out of town for a while doing conference things. But I promise I haven’t forgotten about this blog, and I’ll be back soon with more science :)

Planet Earth Control Deck