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Michael Aranda substitutes for Hank again in this week's News to tell you about the winners of the 2012 Visualization Challenge, an annual competition run by the journal Science that selects the most elegant and educational graphics, videos and games which show science in action. Science, meet art!

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See the complete list of challenge winners here:

Play the games mentioned in the video:
Velocity Raptor -
Selene -
Untangled -

Hi! I'm Michael Aranda in for Hank Green while he's on tour. For those of you hoping to learn this week about the dangers of American football, since the Super Bowl is tomorrow, or, say, the physiology of primates in space, since Iran sent a monkey into orbit last week, I'm sorry to disappoint you. I thought you'd rather see a beating human heart instead.

[Intro music plays]

 2012 Visualization Challenge

On Thursday, the journal Science released the winners of the 2012 Visualization Challenge, an annual competition that selects the most elegant and educational graphics, videos, and games that show science in action.

It's a match made in heaven. Science, meet Art. Art? Science. And this year's winners portray all kinds of natural elements in tantalizing, high-tech ways, from the teeth of a sea urchin to that amazing moment when sperm meets egg. But it's the heart that I mentioned that took one of the top prizes this year.

 Alya Red

The first-place winner in the Challenge's Video category is the Barcelona Supercomputing Center for Alya Red, a new 3D simulation of the living human heart. Using MRIs along with more new-ish imaging technology called diffusion tensor imaging, the Barcelona Center collected hundreds of thousands of data points to map all the little heart's muscle fibers and come up with a complete electromechanical model of your ticker.

With this programmable simulation, doctors can now study and experiment on one of our most complex and still-not-fully-understood organs, and its designers say that it may someday be part of a complete, detailed simulation of the entire human anatomy.

 Monkey's Brain (01:24)

In the mood for something more arty than heart-y? In the illustration category, the top prize went to the wiring diagram of a monkey's brain. While designing computer chips based on the structure of primates' brains, researchers at IBM devised this simple, colorful, and kind of trippy picture.

Using the brain of a macaque as a template, they began by plotting the synaptic cores, or clusters of neural activity, of the brain's 77 largest areas. Those cores are represented as more than 4,100 bright dots arranged in a ring. Then, using the data from an active monkey's brain, researchers mapped the connectivity between all of these little cores, each region having its own color and passing through the brain's central, or source, core. That's the spot on the center-right.

Computer scientists hope to use schematics like this to test all sorts of networks, including the one you're using right now, to make computers that think more like we do -- like Skynet!

 Video Games

Finally, you can't really talk about science graphics without talking about the finest form of expression ever created by humanity: video games. And the winner of the 2012 Visualization Challenge may not exactly look like Assassin's Creed, but it does have dinosaurs traveling at the speed of light.

Velocity Raptor is a Flash game for schoolkids that illustrates the principles of Einstein's theory of special relativity, which explains how the laws of physics stay the same for all uniformly moving observers. But as the young velociraptor in the game finds out, as you approach the speed of light, relativity causes all kinds of fun, weird, and counterintuitive effects, like the contraction of space and the elongation of time, all of which make the dinosaur's otherwise simple tasks, like walking across a room and dodging relativistic cannon balls surprisingly hard

If you're interested, other top games this year include Selene, a simulator that lets you re-create the formation of the Moon however you want, and Untangled, in which players compete to design the most compact and possibly most lovely circuitry on a computer chip.

You can check out all of the winners and honorable mentions of the 2012 Visualization Challenge in the links below. Hank will be back in two weeks. In the meantime, send us your feedback, tips, ideas, and clean limericks. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter and, as always, in the comments below.

[Credits play]