Virus trading cards

April 11 2016


This week’s infographic is 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. I wanted to make a collection that showcased a variety of viruses that are a current public health concern.

I picked three human diseases that I thought would be particularly relevant - HPV (which causes cervical cancer), Adenovirus (which causes the common cold), and Dengue (a close relative of the Zika virus). Edit: The Zika virus structure was not known at the time. I also included Chlorella Virus (which infects a non-human host) to add more diversity to the trading card collection.

To make these cards I used UCSF Chimera, a molecular modeling program used by many researchers. When sccientists 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 look at the 3D protein model in many different magnifications. In this set of virus trading cards, I decided to show each viral capsid at two different magnifications - a coarse version on the left and a finely detailed version on the right.

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Here there be robots: A medieval map of Mars

February 27 2016


Although I’m not an astronomer, I love reading about Mars missions and looking through the free data released by NASA. This month I decided to create a map to showcase the wealth of knowledge scientists have accumulated over the past few decades.

Unlike other planetary maps, this map uses a Victorian style inspired by medieval cartographers. Victorian-style maps are from a time when most of the world remained a mystery, and travelers only knew about nearby lands. Now that people have mapped the entire globe, I think that Mars has taken over our collective imagination as the next mystery to explore. I wanted to use this thematic connection to tie together our history of exploration with our current adventures into unexplored lands.

To make this map I hand-traced topographic data from the USGS Color-Coded Contour Map of Mars to give the map a traditional aesthetic. Our topographic knowledge of Mars is not exact, so I added an overlay of satellite imagery from the NASA Mars Orbital Laser Altimeter. I also used naming information from the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature and location information from the Mars 1:5 million-scale THEMIS Images.

To add a little something extra, I wanted to share some of the interesting history behind the geographic features on Mars. For example, craters on Mars are named after Earth towns, scientists, or famous artists. In this map I tried to make a strange planet seem familiar by prominently sharing the Earth origins of each crater name.

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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