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On this week's show we'll be talking about some of the viruses that are making headlines this summer: West Nile virus infections have killed at least 87 people
in the U.S. this year. And at least two men have died from hantavirus infections thought to be acquired during a stay at Yosemite National Park
. There's also a new viral disease
scientists are working to understand. The so-called "Heartland virus" is thought to be carried by ticks, and has sickened at least two men in Missouri.
Viruses are little more than genetic material wrapped in a protein coat; tiny machines that hijack cells so they can reproduce. They're almost elegant-- if you can use that word to describe deadly weapons.
Artist Luke Jerram
captures a facet of that elegance with his 3-D "glass microbiology
" sculptures. Jerram says he created the viruses so that viewers could "contemplate the global impact of each disease." Just like actual viruses, the sculptures are colorless and, Jerram says, offer "alternative representations of viruses to the artificially coloured imagery we receive through the media." (Jerram himself is colorblind.)
Jerram consults with virologists to create accurate but supersized representations of the viruses. The swine flu virus pictured above is about 7" in diameter, or about 1,000,000 times actual size. Click on the slide show above to see more of Jerram's sculptures.