12/23/2022

A DNA Map You Can Touch—Or Walk Through

17:13 minutes

Still from “Baroque Bodies (Ambient Portals 1)”. Animation created with 3D models of nucleosomes with surfaces reflecting AI-generated landscapes produced with epigenetics research texts. Credit: ©2022 Laura Splan

When science involves visualizing the intricate movements of DNA through time and space, examining minutiae like how DNA folds and rearranges itself during cell division, or the relationships between miniscule beads on microscopic strings, the data can get complicated really fast.

 Which is why biophysicist Adam Lamson is collaborating with artist Laura Splan in a project the two of them callSticky Settings.’ It’s a kind of an inside joke about the nature of DNA strands, and the kinds of digital transformations that can be applied to data in animation software.

But the result of this partnership has been anything but a joke. From giant tapestries that present maps of DNA in colorful, tactile formats, to otherworldly animations set to music, their art invites a non-scientific audience to literally walk into the processes our own cells are undergoing every day.

Producer Christie Taylor talks with Splan and Lamson about their partnership, and the natural intersection between an artist’s creativity and a scientist’s. Plus how an artist’s interpretation can bring new insights to difficult data.


Media Gallery

Left: 3D simulation of a flexible filament as it condenses from ‘sticky’ protein-segment interactions. Right: Associated instantaneous contact map of the 3D filament conformation on the left. Credit: Adam Lamson and the Center for Computational Biology, Flatiron Institute as a part of the Simons Foundation.

“Tangible Variations (nipy_spectral)”. Detail of computerized Jacquard weaving of contact map visualization inferred from Adam Lamson’s chromatin simulations. Credit: ©2022 Laura Splan
Full view of the left. Credit: ©2022 Laura Splan

 

“Tangible Variations (cubehelix_r)”. Detail of computerized Jacquard weaving of contact map visualization inferred from Adam Lamson’s chromatin simulations. Credit: ©2022 Laura Splan
Full view of left. Credit: ©2022 Laura Splan

Excerpt from animation created with 3D models of nucleosomes with surfaces reflecting AI-generated landscapes produced with epigenetics research texts. Spatial soundscape generated from Adam Lamson’s chromatin simulations. Credit: ©2022 Laura Splan


Credit for all images: © 2022 Laura Splan. This work was made possible by the Simons Foundation and in collaboration with Adam Lamson, Science Collaborator and theoretical biophysicist at Flatiron Institute, a division of the Simons Foundation.


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Segment Guests

Adam Lamson

Dr. Adam Lamson is a fellow in Biophysical Modeling at the Flatiron Institute in New York, New York.

Laura Splan

Laura Splan is a multimedia artist based in Brooklyn, New York.

Segment Transcript

The transcript is being processed. It will be available the week after the segment airs.

Meet the Producers and Host

About Nahima Ahmed

Nahima Ahmed is Science Friday’s Manager of Impact Strategy. She is a researcher who loves to cook curry, discuss identity, and helps the team understand how stories can shape audiences’ access to and interest in science.

About Christie Taylor

Christie Taylor is a producer for Science Friday. Her day involves diligent research, too many phone calls for an introvert, and asking scientists if they have any audio of that narwhal heartbeat.

About Ira Flatow

Ira Flatow is the host and executive producer of Science FridayHis green thumb has revived many an office plant at death’s door.

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