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"Flower Power"

Polymer pillars collapse into a flower petal-like pattern

"Flower Power," by Briana Whitaker and Briana Carstens, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Accidents can sometimes be beautiful. Whitaker and Carstens snapped this photograph as a quality control step in their experiments to study the forces that cells, such as those that stitch together skin wounds, exert. They visualize these forces by watching how forests of 10 micrometer-tall polymer pillars bend when they place the cells on top of them. Ideally, the pillars should stand straight up, but on this occasion most of the pillars had fallen over. Amazingly, though, they'd all collapsed into a flower petal-like pattern.

This image won Honorable Mention in the Photography category of the 2009 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge (SciVis) competition, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the journal Science. The competition is held each year to celebrate the grand tradition of science visualization and to encourage its continued growth. The spirit of the competition is to communicate science, engineering and technology for education and journalistic purposes. To learn more about the competition and view all the winning entries, see the NSF SciVis Special Report. (Date of Image: June 2009)

Credit: Russell Taylor, Briana K. Whitaker and Briana L. Carstens; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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