The beauty in science
July 1, 2011 5:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for imagery (including, but not limited to, artwork) that captures the spiritual side of science, as expressed so eloquently by the late Carl Sagan.

I need artwork for my apartment. I love science and reason and nature and the intellect, and I want at least one piece of artwork to reflect that.

To that end, I'm looking for a high-resolution image on the Internet that I can turn into some kind of print (possibly a big one). It should relate to science and nature, but it should evoke an emotional, not just intellectual, response: the kind of thing that reminds you that holy shit, nature is one seriously awe-inspiring motherfucker. Something that touches on the staggering grace and unfathomable complexity of the universe.

I'm familiar with Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot", and I'll be poring carefully through the Astronomy Picture of the Day archive. However, I'm interested in seeing all kinds of images—not just astronomy photos.

Images could be:

—actual photos of natural phenomena of scientific interest: biological stuff, microphotography, geological phenomena, astronomy—any discipline, really

—drawn or painted imagery that illustrates nature as seen through the lens of science, from any era, and in any style. (Renaissance sketches are the too-obvious example). I would love to find a detailed, high-resolution, vintage Victorian-ish moon chart, with features hand-labeled in Latin.

—digital imagery: models of phenomena from physics; really beautiful infographics

—artwork inspired by science and nature, or derived from any of the above imagery

I'm not interested in science-fiction imagery, or pictures of scientists. Nature (and our humble attempts to comprehend it) should be the star here, not people.

So—link away! Thanks!
posted by ixohoxi to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I should add: unless text is somehow integral to the image/artwork (e.g., an infographic), I'd prefer something without captions, titles, or other text.
posted by ixohoxi at 5:41 PM on July 1, 2011

I love astronomy images, so here's a bunch of sources I'd check:

NASA's Hubble space telescope gallery is awesome. I'm particularly fond of Hubble's images of the Eagle Nebula.

The Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) has had some pretty incredible stuff over the years - take a trip through their archives.

There are many aurora-as-seen-from-space photos that I find stunning - here's one of them.

Images of Earth as seen from the Moon (example) are similar to the amazing "Pale Blue Dot", but I think it has more of an emotional impact on me, since it can be clearly recognized as the Earth.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:57 PM on July 1, 2011

This is what happens in our cells, the whole time.

(Apparently. IANAbiochemist)

I wish I could find a high-res image. It's a mind-boggling diagram.
posted by Conductor71 at 5:57 PM on July 1, 2011

Oh, and btw, the NASA gallery usually has very high-res versions of their images.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:58 PM on July 1, 2011

I'm biased, but here's a few of my favorites. The Z-Machine (largest man-made x-ray generator), Solar glitter (tiny PV cells), zinc oxide nanorod clusters, Texas Tech's micro-dragonfly MEMS device, happy anthrax spores, parabolic troughs. I have higher-res versions of some of these on my work computer; memail me if you want them.
posted by answergrape at 6:20 PM on July 1, 2011

As far as photos of Earth from space go, this very high-resolution image is my favorite.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:29 PM on July 1, 2011

I'm an atheist, but looking deep into a high-res image of the The Hubble Deep Field inspires something resembling holy awe in me.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:50 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

sky publishing has a number of 'spotlight prints' (photographic prints, very nice) for quite reasonable prices...def cheaper than the same quality from a copy shop...i got the hubble deep field myself, but they don't seem to carry it anymore :(
ah...they have them here, but they are a bit pricier...still, real photo prints are usually worth it...

if spiritual biology is your thing, hold onto your hat: alex grey
posted by sexyrobot at 9:31 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

oh, and for the old moon print, check your used bookstore...the science moves so fast that big old astronomy books can usually be had for a song...cut, frame, done...
posted by sexyrobot at 9:34 PM on July 1, 2011

I've been doing an astronomy related project recently that has forced me to learn a lot more about the solar system than I used to, and a lot of it blows me away. I've been working more with numbers than with pictures, but if it wasn't obvious;
A photograph taken on the surface of Venus - an actual for-real landscape photograph of an alien planet. (Taken seconds before that world destroyed the camera). The more recent Mars rovers have returned a lot of super-high-res photos, and there are many striking landscapes there too.

A surprising "sleeper" hit, is what happens when you see the moon at incredible resolution. It's such a familiar object, connected to all of us, our entire lives, but suddenly you're effectively seeing it for the first time. So familiar yet so new. It's mysteriously entrancing.

The heart of a quantum computer does mind-bending things that violates the very nature of reality as we intuitively understand it.

Some of the work of The Long Now Foundation is both gorgeous and thought-provoking.

Someone else's collection of inspiring images.
posted by anonymisc at 2:40 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean paints scenes from space. Original paintings cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, but prints are available at a more affordable price. Alan Bean prints
posted by borkencode at 8:35 AM on July 2, 2011

Alex Grey's work has a strong psychedelic/visionary element but there's also a scientific touch to some of it.
posted by jayder at 10:55 AM on July 2, 2011

NASA's blue marble has 21600 x 21600 image of the Earth
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 5:10 PM on July 2, 2011

oh der...forgot...saturn from behind.
also the time-life science library is a thrift/2nd hand book store staple and are chock full of awesome, totally retro-tastic, kodachrome tecnicolor, totally frameable science porn. 'Matter' is probably my favorite in the series...ever wonder what the emanations from a rose look like? why not drop one in a fine layer of carbon dust floating on a pool of mercury!
posted by sexyrobot at 6:36 PM on July 2, 2011

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