A sick world in gorgeous close-up [newscientist.com]

by Mark Viney

(Image: Odra Noel/Scientific Art/odranoel.eu)

Illness and death are the common lot of humanity, but just how they get you depends in part on where in the world you live. This artwork makes that point by combining the beauty of microscopy with the geography of disease. Each continent is painted as microscopic views of the parts of the body that, when diseased or dysfunctional, cause most death or illness for the people who live there.

North America is built from fatty adipose tissue because of its epidemic of obesity. Europe and Russia is represented by brain tissue, representing the neurodegenerative disease of its ageing population. East Asia and the Pacific region is shown as pancreatic tissue, which when diseased causes diabetes. Greenland is marked by a few sperm cells that represent infertility.

The artist, Odra Noel, trained as a doctor, and uses her knowledge of organs and tissues, cell structure and mitochondria in her work. She says she painted this work on silk to evoke old maps.

The disease map of the world is on show from 2 July at the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition in London. This festival of science and technology presents exhibits covering everything from acoustic thermometryto zebrafish genetics.


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