This may look like a cross between something my friend Helen would knit and a Good Eats model of a droplet of fat covered in lecithin, but it's actually a three-dimensional illustration of the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, and the winner of the Illustration category in the 2010 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge. Here's the explanation of the image:
Ivan Konstantinov's winning illustration reduces HIV to unnerving simplicity. His team at the Visual Science Company in Moscow spent months combing through the latest research, compiling data from more than 100 papers and assembling the information into a coherent image of a 100-nanometer HIV particle. They depicted the proteins in just two basic colors: Gray equals host, orange equals virus.
The World Health Organization reports that 33.3 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and another 2.6 million people are infected each year. "You have this gaping mouth that almost looks like it's ready to eat you the way AIDS is eating away at society," said NASA's Tom Wagner, one of the competition judges.
Current and past winners and honorable mentions in all five categories---including photography, informational posters and interactive games---can be found online.