During a stroll on Belmar Beach in New Jersey, Sara Sadri, a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University, came across a pattern in the sand carved by the ocean waves. As a hydrologist, Sadri saw a natural water flow, but on an artistic level, she says, the tendrils resembled “a crowd of people gathered together looking into the future with their hair together blown in the wind.” She snapped a photo of the sand.
Sadri’s image, entitled “Watermarks,” earned first prize in the still photography category of Princeton University’s annual Art of Science competition. This year, a jury of scientists and photographers selected 44 finalists from the 250 entries by faculty, undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral students and alumni across 25 academic departments. The selections are on view in an exhibition in the Friend Center on the Princeton campus, and organizers of the competition launched an online gallery this week.
The 2014 contest also adds a new component: video. Twelve video finalists were selected from 50 submissions. "So much of science and engineering involves video or animation these days that it was inevitable we would include it in Art of Science," said Dan Quinn, a graduate student in mechanical and aerospace engineering and one of the exhibition organizers, in a statement released today. “Since a picture is worth a thousand words, video is worth approximately 30,000 words per second, so adding a video component to Art of Science was a no-brainer."
Since its first installment in 2005, the competition has focused on the intersection of art and science; entries are judged based on both artistic and scientific merit. A microscopic shot of spores from an unidentified Rhizopus fungus explores the untapped diversity of the microbial world, while an aerial image of a termite mound taken from a kite in Kenya is part of an effort to understand what sort of ecological role mound patterns play. The images and videos document the innate beauty of the scientific process and encourage both scientists and artists to look at their work through a different lens.