Visually Striking Scientific Illustrations for Poetry Book Cover
November 3, 2011 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Help, scientists! I'm looking for a cover image for my forthcoming book of poetry. I would like to use a visually striking image (photo, diagram, etc.) from a scientific publication.

The poems in the book are often cold, distant, and undergo a lot of repetition and transformation, though there are other tones and modes as well. I'm looking for an image that will convey those things. I'll put a link to two sample poems, and text for another, in my profile; they're not 100% representative, but will be included in the book and should give an idea.

I wanted to use some stills taken from this youtube video. The resolution would be too low to use, but otherwise the video is good because it's visually striking, cold, kind of cruel (too cruel to be funny, probably), and shows repetition/variation between the film and x-ray image.

So, scientists who have seen any amazing scientific illustration or diagram recently, please point me to it! I'm looking for things with masks, action, animals, repetitions (such as still frames from a video), anatomical diagrams, interesting colors, or anything visually striking. Newer is better than vintage -- no Victorian bottled anything, please. Biology/zoology are great. Vocal or sonic things are probably great. Nano-things are great too.

Thanks for any and all help!!
posted by sleevener to Science & Nature (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I wonder if PET scans might strike your fancy? It's a relatively modern imaging technology, it certainly has interesting colors, they're of the body so you've got the anatomical diagram part down, and they're generally of cool things like brains. Here's an example (just pulled from google). Here's another.

If you want more traditional medical illustrations, you don't get much better than Max Brodel.
posted by phunniemee at 9:18 AM on November 3, 2011

You could check the Public Domain Image resource on Wikipedia.

you didn't mention getting permission for using the images for the book cover- and I'm assuming you aren't planning to publish like a million copies, but as a professional artist I really hate it when people use my work without gaining permission. once you get an idea of what kind of image you want, please try to find one that is released for public use
posted by Blisterlips at 9:25 AM on November 3, 2011

Response by poster: phunniemee, the PET scan images are visually right -- I'd like to find one of an animal (either full body or head). The Brodel is maybe too yicky?

Blisterlips, thank you for bringing this up. This book will be published by a university press. We won't use an image without permission, and there's even a small budget for cover art. You have anything I should look at?
posted by sleevener at 9:30 AM on November 3, 2011

Scanning electron microscope images like this come to mind.
posted by cardboard at 9:51 AM on November 3, 2011

The second of those at least is in the public domain too.
posted by cardboard at 9:56 AM on November 3, 2011

Repetition and transformation put me in mind of the ribosome, the little thingy in your cells who translates RNA into protein. This image captures what I'm getting at, but, as others have stated, you really need to secure permission if you're not going to use a public domain image.
posted by gurple at 11:37 AM on November 3, 2011

Best answer: This may be a bit too old-school and organic, but I've always loved images of the Sensory and Motor Homunculi which are pictures of the human body distorted to show the relative presence of various body parts within the sensory and motor nervous systems.

They come in various different flavors and styles, so if you find the idea at all interesting you may be able to find one that suits you well. You may even be able to find an old out-of-copyright image in an obsolete medical textbook somewhere.

Good luck!
posted by Scientist at 12:21 PM on November 3, 2011

Oh, if you are interested at all in MRIs of humans, I got some of my brain done last night that you're welcome to use. Memail me if that sounds like something you'd be into.
posted by phunniemee at 3:01 PM on November 3, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, Scientist! That's an interesting and very specific image, I've never seen that before. I'll have to look into other iterations of that! A quick Google Image search turns up surprisingly consistent but varied results.

I want to clear up the public domain thing, in case it's holding back anyone else from posting: copyrighted images are okay for my purposes. I'll get permission before using any image as cover art.

Okay! More! Thank you to everyone so far!
posted by sleevener at 7:34 PM on November 3, 2011

What about fractacls? There are many great examples in
posted by eleslie at 8:41 PM on November 3, 2011

Transformation you say? Are you familiar with a Fourier transform? It's a way to take things from a spatial domain to a frequency domain. It's makes some mind bogglingly complex things pretty simple to do, but if you do a Fourier transform to an image, well, it's always this weird starburst pattern.

So what if you take an image you like - it could be something technical, or it could just be a picture of a kitten (which I happened to have handy), then do a Fourier transform on the image and interleave them like so. Advantage - if you create the untransformed image, you own the rights to everything.

If you love this idea, I can talk you through doing the transform (or donate the 2 minutes of my time to doing it for you - the software is free and it's super easy to do).
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:10 PM on November 3, 2011

I didn't spell it out, but the thing about the transform is that it's completely reversible. If I sent you the tif file of the weird sunburst thing, you could do the reverse Fourier transform on it and get the picture of the kitten back.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:14 PM on November 3, 2011

Best answer: Hey - I worked with a guy who did really similar research with turtles on treadmills!

Anyway, I came across a great website a few weeks ago, It's just a bunch of... nice figures from recent scientific literature. You could definitely peruse that.

You said you don't want vintage, but what that sounds like to me is that you don't want cliche. In my opinion, a really classic scientific figure would be great because you'd draw in the people who know it (and those who don't would still see a nice figure).

Haekel's classic diagram, seen here, came to my mind as soon as I read the headline. It's a bunch of embryos from diverse animal groups at similar stages of development. It demonstrates the popular maxim "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny." Ontogeny is the personal development of a single individual (a human being from an egg cell to an adult, for example). Phylogeny is the evolutionary history of a group of animals; the "evolutionary tree" with fish then salamanders then little rodents branching off would be a phylogeny. The graph demonstrates that an animal's ontogeny, its progression from a single cell to a developed animal, follows a similar pattern to that same animal's phylogeny, its evolutionary history. Human fetuses look kinda like fish then salamanders then little rodents.

Cool idea! If not Haekel, my (non-artistic, only cares about science) opinion would definitely say you should go for something old & iconic, although I agree that stuff in jars may not be it.
posted by Buckt at 2:14 PM on November 6, 2011

Response by poster: Nice Figure is great! I wish it had a bigger backlog, but it's really nice. Buckt, who did you work with who did research on turtles? I'm wondering if a) they have any visual materials or b) it's the same person I'm friends with. You can memail me if you'd rather talk off-air. Thanks for the help!
posted by sleevener at 8:15 AM on November 7, 2011

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