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Stunning Images Reveal Unpredictability of Science

goby fish peers out from a coral
The monkeylike face of a goby fish peers out from the center of a coral labyrinth. The fish depends on the coral for its home, and, in turn, often cleans smothering algae from the coral. This image was accepted into the Art of Science 2013 competition at Princeton University. (Image credit: Chhaya Werner, <a href="">Princeton University Art of Science Competition</a>)

A tiny goby fish peering out from a coral labyrinth, a beautiful sphere representing Earth's winds, and a Medusa-like tangle of worms are among the amazing entrants to this year's Art of Science competition at Princeton University.

The gallery, which opened with a reception on May 10, includes 44 images chosen for their beauty and unpredictability from 170 submissions from 24 departments at Princeton. The images were created during scientific research.

"Like art, science and engineering are deeply creative activities," Pablo Debenedetti, Dean for Research at Princeton, said in a statement. "Also like art, science and engineering at their very best are highly unpredictable in their outcomes. The Art of Science exhibit celebrates the beauty of unpredictability and the unpredictability of beauty." [Images of the Art of Science Winners & Entries]

Chosen by a jury of photographers and scientists, first place went to Martin Jucker, of the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, for his pastel depiction of the constant winds around Earth, averaged over time. Michael Kosk, of the Woodrow Wilson School, took home second place for his spooky photo of crushed birch wood, while third place went to the "web of art and science," by Paul Csogi and Chris Cane, of the Lewis Center for the Arts and the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. That image shows two embroiderylike figures visually representing the similarities and differences of a website devoted to science and one devoted the arts.

The winds around our globe are preferentially directed from West to East, or East to West, and much less so in the North-South directions. As a result, atmospheric phenomena can travel around the globe, exchanging information even from remote places of the Earth easily. We see in the picture surfaces of constant wind around Earth, averaged over time. Blue is East-to-West, red West-to-East directed wind. (Image credit: Martin Jucker, Princeton University Art of Science Competition)

Prizes for the top-three entrants are calculated by the golden ratio, whose proportions are thought to represent ideal beauty. The university based its prize money off that mathematical figure: $250 for first prize, $154.51 for second prize and $95.49 for third prize.

In addition, attendees of the opening reception cast 139 ballots to choose the People's Choice winners, which included an artistic look at the nurse cells in a fruit fly ovary, a zebra print caused by light interference and a tangle of C. elegans worms entitled "Medusa."

The entries that made it into the gallery but didn't snag top awards were just as imaginative. For instance, the cute face of a goby fish peers from the center of a coral, its home, in an image by Chhaya Werner of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

In another, Meredith Wright snapped an image with her cellpone of C. elegans worms under a microscope. "She cleverly titled her work 'C. instagram' to drive home the way such an image shared through social media can instantly connect new audiences with science," Katherine Bussard, a curator of photography at the Princeton Art Museum, said in a statement.

The exhibit, which is open to the public Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., now through April 2014, is located in the Friend Center on the Princeton University campus in Princeton, N.J.

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Jeanna Bryner

Jeanna is the editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.