A mind-blowing gallery of the best science visualizations from 2013S

The winners of the 2013 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge have been announced, and as always, they're simply amazing.

The contest, which is now in its 11th year, is sponsored jointly by the journal Science and the U.S. National Science Foundation (check out last year's winners here). It honors scientists and artists who create thought-provoking videos and visuals that promote understanding of scientific research.

Well over 200 visualizations were submitted this year spanning 12 countries. The entries were judged according to visual impact, effective communication, freshness, and originality. Submissions included everything from photos and illustrations through to infographics, video games, and apps. We've put together some of our favorites.

Image titles and credits listed below; caption information via AAAS.

Viewing a Fluid Flow Produced by Corals

A mind-blowing gallery of the best science visualizations from 2013S

This image, titled "Invisible Coral Flows," won first place in the photography category. It shows the hidden natural beauty of the reef-building coral habitat. The image of a Pocillopora damicornis (cauliflower coral), taken by Vicente Fernandez from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, draws the viewer to a fluid vortex generated by cilia covering the coral's surface, creating a whirlpool structure in the surrounding seawater. Credit: Vicente I. Fernandez, Orr H. Shapiro, Melissa S. Garren, Assaf Vardi, and Roman Stocker; Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Observing Leaf Scales Through a Different Lens

A mind-blowing gallery of the best science visualizations from 2013S

"Stellate leaf hairs on Deutzia scabra" won honorable mention in the photography category. By using an old technique called polarized light microscopy, the image reveals the fine structure of a plant and its functions, highlighting the value of microstructure in the taxonomy of plants. The photographer, Stephen Francis Lowry, says that, in Japan, woodworkers utilize the abrasive qualities of the leaves for fine polishing. Credit: Stephen Francis Lowry; Steve Lowry Photography.

A Stunning Vision of Micromaterial

A mind-blowing gallery of the best science visualizations from 2013S

This beautiful image, titled "Polymer Micro-structure Self-assembly," won the People's Choice award for photography. Anna Pyayt and Howard Kaplan, researchers from the University of South Florida, used a camera mounted on top of a microscope to demonstrate the formation of micro-structures in polymers that self-assemble into different shapes. Credit: Anna Pyayt and Howard Kaplan (University of South Florida).

Move Within the Brain's Cells

A mind-blowing gallery of the best science visualizations from 2013S

Called "Cortex in Metallic Pastels, " this is a first-place illustration by Greg Dunn that communicates the layered structure of the cerebral cortex. The stylized painting, which resembles a forest, is derived from Asian principles by using gold leaf, aluminum, acrylic dye and other materials to unravel the beauty of microscopic cells in the brain. "The neurons are painted by a technique wherein pigments are blown across the canvas using jets of air, a technique that closely emulates the spontaneous, random branching patterns of actual neurons," says Dunn. Credit: Greg Dunn, Brian Edwards (Greg Dunn Design); Marty Saggese (SfN); Tracy Bale (UPenn); Rick Huganir (Johns Hopkins University).

Analyzing Stolen Passwords

A mind-blowing gallery of the best science visualizations from 2013S

This one's pretty neat — and even a bit scary. Called "Security Blanket," it's a digitally printed image on a cotton-fabric quilt with layers of color-coded passwords. The artist, Lorrie Faith Cranor from Carnegie Mellon University, formed a research group to find ways of improving password policies by analyzing stolen passwords. The artwork reveals the extent to which people choose identical — and weak — passwords. Credit: Lorrie Faith Cranor (Carnegie Mellon University).

Observing the Microbes On Our Hand

A mind-blowing gallery of the best science visualizations from 2013S

A People's Choice award was given to a researcher from Stanford's University School of Medicine, Lydia-Marie Joubert, for an illustration, titled "Human Hand controlling Bacterial Biofilm." She used a novel biofilm imaging technique to show the growth of bacteria — at 400 times normal resolution — in the dark-grey fingers and palm of a hand sculpture. The image conveys how microbes persevere, even after repeated antimicrobial treatment. Credit: Lydia-Marie Joubert (Stanford University).

Wearing Energy-Storing Clothes

A mind-blowing gallery of the best science visualizations from 2013S

This poster, "Wearable Power," shows a model wearing a cutting-edge 3D rendered garment that conveys a new science and design concept. Scientists at Drexel University formed a collaborative research project to seek ways to develop clothes, or yarns, with devices that can store power. In this graphic, they describe a product that has power sources built into fabric for clothing, which could be developed and used in the medical, military and sportswear industries. Credit: Kristy Jost, Babak Anasori, Majid Beidaghi, Genevieve Dion, and Yuri Gogotsi; Drexel University.

Popping Soap Bubbles

A mind-blowing gallery of the best science visualizations from 2013S

We actually covered this one on io9. The graphic shows a large colorful bubble cluster and a diagram that details the multi-scale components of foam and describes the complex dynamics of popping foam bubbles. Robert Saye, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, explains that "this poster tells part of this story, from the picturesque behavior of soap bubbles, multi-scale physics and mathematical modeling, to simulation with powerful supercomputers." Credit: Robert I. Saye and James A. Sethian (UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory).

View the Cycle of a Sea Turtle

A mind-blowing gallery of the best science visualizations from 2013S

This illustration, titled "Effects of Cold-stunning on Sea Turtles," was compiled by a team of researchers at the Johns Hopkins University and The National Aquarium. It describes the four-stage cycle of a rescued sea turtle, which is cold-stunned, or exposed to cold water temperatures for a rapidly and unexpectedly prolonged period of time. Used as an educational tool for the public, the material is presented in a stylized way with colors, numbers and arrows to guide the reader through the cycle's effects. Credit: Katelyn McDonald and Timothy Phelps (Johns Hopkins University); and Jennifer Dittmar (The National Aquarium).

Visualizing the Universe

This first-place animated video shows our sun's powerful magnetic energy and Earth's strong magnetic fields that drive the winds and ocean currents that form our planet's climate. The narrated movie, "Dynamic Earth," took complex, state-of-the-art computational models from research institutions across the United States to create a high-resolution visualization of our universe for the big screen, which is now playing at planetariums around the world. Credit: Greg Shirah and Horace Mitchell (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center—SVS); Tom Bridgman (Global Science & Technology, Inc.).

Watching Stem Cells at Work

A series of animated videos, titled "StemCellShorts" used simple, colorful, and playful shapes to represent the complexity of stem cell research and to make the information more accessible. Each of the three videos, developed by Ben Paylor at the University of British Columbia and Mike Long at the University of Toronto and their team, answers a simple question about stem cells. Award-winning animator David Murawsky from the Stem Cell Network participated in the project. Credit: Ben Paylor, Mike Long, Jim Till, Janet Rossant, Mick Bhatia, David Murawsky, and James Wallace (Stem Cell Network).

Journey through the Human Gut

The 3D animation by Arkitek Studios, "Immunology of the Gut Mucosa," explores how the human body's immune system responds to bacteria in the gastrointestinal system—how it protects against food-borne pathogens and how it responds to bacterial invasion—from the macro scale down to the subcellular level and looks at how the inner workings of the body achieves its balance. Credit: Doug Huff and Elizabeth Anderson (Arkitek Studios); Zoltan Fehervari (Nature Immunology); and Simon Fenwick (Nature Reviews).

Viewing Plant Cells in 3D

The video, "Visualizing Leaf Cells from Within," depicts a novel model view of the epidermal cells of the Arabidopsis thaliana leaf and describes breakthroughs in 3D imaging and analysis for a general audience. Geoffrey Harlow at the University of California, Riverside and his team try to seek ways to prevent food shortages by first understanding the underlying genetic causes associated with the shape, strength and structure of a plant cell. Credit: Geoffrey J. Harlow, Shou Li, Albert C. Cruz, Jisheng Chen, and Zhenbiao Yang University of California, Riverside.

Watching the Beauty of Nanoparticles

The People's Choice video, "Spherical Nucleic Acids," is another animation produced by The Seagull Company and Northwestern University that gives the viewer a first-hand look at the properties that mark SNAs as a potential treatment for diseases with a genetic basis. Derived from the research conducted by Dr. Mirkin, a leader in the field who was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in chemistry, and his group at Northwestern University, the content is an overview of how the properties make them favorable for therapeutic treatments in the field of biomedicine. Credit: Quintin Anderson (The Seagull Company); Chad Mirkin and Sarah Petrosko (Northwestern University).