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Infectious diseases as art

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  March 1, 2013 09:00 AM

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Infectious diseases are always scary, but they look especially menacing in glass. That's one impression left by the works of sculptor Luke Jerram, who has created a series of disconcertingly beautiful glass representations of some of the world's most notorious viruses. Jerram's initial motivation for the project was practical: He thought it was misleading that viruses are usually depicted in color when in fact they're smaller than a wavelength of light (and therefore, colorless). Images of Jerram's sculptures have been used for educational purposes in leading scientific publications. His work, which is currently on display at the Museum of Art and Design, has also been successful as art and, indeed, nothing would seem to set the tone for certain occasions (divorce proceedings; home foreclosures) quite like a perfectly imagined version of smallpox on the mantle.

Swine Flu
Disease Swine Flu.jpg

T4 Bacteriophage
Disease T4 Complete.jpg

Disease HIV.jpg

Images courtesy of Luke Jerram

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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