The 2008 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge has just concluded with some pretty astonishing imagery in the winning slots. This picture, dubbed "Glass Forest," is a scanning electron micrograph of diatoms (weird unicellular algae) clinging to a marine worm, and won the photography category: to my eyes it looks half like a palm tree and half like a Star Trek effect. The illustration category winner is even more amazing.

It's by Linda Nye from the Exploratorium Visualization Laboratory, and demonstrates the human bloodstream at a level that zooms from blood-vessel level all the way to oxygen atoms binding to hemoglobin, and everything in between. I find science pretty amazing full stop: but this kind of competition really goes the extra mile to communicate how intricate the world/universe around us is. Check out the link to the National Science Foundation (who ran the challenge) to see more of the'll probably be amazed too. [NSF via New Scientist]