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Elevating Poop Science to an Art

Bacteria are not the enemy. That’s the first thing microbiologist and doctor Nicola Fawcett wants us to know. The microbes are an essential part of our bodies and our lives. “We wouldn’t be able to survive in this world without bacteria,” she wrote in her blog.

Fawcett studies the bacteria she finds in the poop of her patients and study participants. In her work with the Antibiotic Resistance in the Microbiome OxfoRD study, which has the best recruitment posters ever

—Fawcett watches patterns emerge. She sees how diet, travel, hospital stays, and, most dramatically, antibiotic use change a person’s microbiome. Our gut bacteria are like plants in a garden, she writes: 

A healthy gut is one that is populated with many different types of bacteria, living together. Some bacteria are almost always beneficial, some are harmless, and some can be harmful. They compete for nutrients, interact, and communicate with one another.  But much like a garden, some types of bacteria can get out of control and cause damage if the careful balance between human and bacterial community [sic] is disrupted.

With these botanical images in mind, Fawcett decided to create images that would showcase the beauty, interconnectedness, and complexity of gut bacteria. She stamped tiny colonies of bacteria onto a dish of dye-infused agar, then left them to grow overnight. The dyes can only be activated by the enzymes of specific bacteria; in this case, it was Escherichia coli (purple), Citrobacter (turquoise), and Klebsiella (dark blue).


Each colored dot represents an entire colony of bacteria, which could be made up of millions of individual organisms. The colonies grew and merged, with sizeable populations of E. coli and Citrobacter crowding out the tiny outposts of Klebsiella growth. From the seed colonies Fawcett had planted in the gel, the bacterial growth flourished, unfurling into a jewel-toned, translucent likeness of ivy on the vine.

At the outer edges of the gel, Fawcett stuck discs full of antibiotics. The antibiotics seeped into the agar and spread, killing off colonies of E. coli and Citrobacter. A halo of empty space surrounded the disc marked MEM, for Meropenem—medicine’s current ‘last line of defense’ against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. But a few hours later, the halo had all but disappeared. In the absence of competition, Klebsiella colonies had crept in.

The presence of Klebsiella in what should be a bacteria-free zone is meant to convey “a worrying message,” writes Fawcett: 

Modern medicine (including surgical operations and cancer treatment) depend [sic] on having effective antibiotics to protect people from infection. These are already running out.

Fawcett submitted photographs of her bacterial paintings to the American Society for Microbiology (ASM)’s 2015 Agar Art contest. (Winners will be announced next week.) The project was a lot of fun, she said,

 and a surprising amount of work. You know the old showbiz adage, ‘never work with children and animals?’ I sort of feel the same way about bacteria…they seldom behave the way you want them to. 

 All photographs courtesy of Chris Wood, Oxford Medical Illustration, and Nicola Fawcett

Original image
Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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presidents
Barack Obama Taps Kehinde Wiley to Paint His Official Presidential Portrait
Original image
Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Kehinde Wiley, an American artist known for his grand portraits of African-American subjects, has painted Michael Jackson, Ice-T, and The Notorious B.I.G. in his work. Now the artist will have the honor of adding Barack Obama to that list. According to the Smithsonian, the former president has selected Wiley to paint his official presidential portrait, which will hang in the National Portrait Gallery.

Wiley’s portraits typically depict black people in powerful poses. Sometimes he models his work after classic paintings, as was the case with "Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps.” The subjects are often dressed in hip-hop-style clothing and placed against decorative backdrops.

Portrait by Kehinde Wiley
"Le Roi a la Chasse"
Kehinde Wiley, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Smithsonian also announced that Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald has been chosen by former first lady Michelle Obama to paint her portrait for the gallery. Like Wiley, Sherald uses her work to challenge stereotypes of African-Americans in art.

“The Portrait Gallery is absolutely delighted that Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have agreed to create the official portraits of our former president and first lady,” Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a press release. “Both have achieved enormous success as artists, but even more, they make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century.”

The tradition of the president and first lady posing for portraits for the National Portrait Gallery dates back to George H.W. Bush. Both Wiley’s and Sherald’s pieces will be revealed in early 2018 as permanent additions to the gallery in Washington, D.C.

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Made.com
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Art
What the Homes of the Future Will Look Like, According to Kids
Original image
Made.com

Ask a futurist what the house of tomorrow will feature and she might mention automatic appliances and robot assistants. Ask a kid the same question and you’ll get answers that are slightly more creative, but not altogether impractical. That’s what Made.com discovered when they launched Homes of the Future, a project that had kids draw illustrations of futuristic homes that served as the basis for professional 3D renderings.

According to Co.Design, the UK-based furniture retailer recruited children ages 4 to 12 to submit their architectural ideas. The doodles, sketched in pen, marker, and colored pencil, showcase the grade-schoolers' imaginations. Paired with each picture is concept art made with a 3D illustrator that shows what the homes might look like in the real world.

The designs range from colorful and whimsical to coldly realistic. In one blueprint, drawn by Ameen, age 10, a neighborhood of rainbow buildings and flowers float among the clouds. Another sketch by Ellis, age 7, shows a “home built to last” with titanium, bricks, a steel roof, and bulletproof windows. Some kids seemed less concerned with durability than they were with the tastiness of the infrastructure. Cherry-flavored bricks, candy windows, and a giant jelly slide were just some of the features built into the future homes. Sustainability was also a major theme, with solar panels appearing on two of the houses.

Check out the original artwork and the 3D versions of their ideas below.

House of the future drawn by kid.

House of the future drawn by kid.

House of the future drawn by kid.

House of the future.

House of the future.

House of the future.

House of the future.

House of the future.

House of the future.

House of the future.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images courtesy of Made.com.

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