What do brains, butterflies, bacteria and blisters have in common? They’re all subjects of this year’s Wellcome Image Awards winners—and show just how emotional and evocative the visual side of science can be.
Every image selected for the 2016 awards shows a different side of medicine and science. The images are collected by Wellcome Images, a medical picture library with a vast collection of scientific imagery, and judged by a panel of science communication and biomedical experts.
The 20 finalists depict everything from moth scales to a premature baby receiving light therapy. One of these images reveals the intricate connections of the human brain—each nerve fiber is color-coded in the composite image. The image is the work of neuroscientist Alfred Anwander, of Germany’s Max Planck Institute, who stitched it together from virtual slices of the brain using diffusion imaging, a type of MRI that tracks the movement and direction of water molecules within the brain.
The awards were established in 1997 in thanks to the contributors of the database for their spectacular imagery. Each year the panel selects finalists and a grand prize winner. This overall winner will be announced for the latest competition at the awards ceremony on March 15.
Since all of the winning images are available under Creative Commons licenses, you can use them any way you want. Even better, you’ll soon be able to view them at science and technology institutions all over the world, including the MIT Koch Institute in Massachusetts, the Africa Center for Population Health in South Africa and the Polytechnic Museum in Moscow. After all, science knows no language—and with pictures like these, it’s easy to understand why.
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Erin Blakemore is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist. Her work has appeared in publications like The Washington Post, TIME, mental_floss, Popular Science and JSTOR Daily. Learn more at erinblakemore.com.