Ghost Face, by Chrissy Hammond and Kate Robson Brown, winner of Art of Science December 2014

Art of Science – Ghost Face

Science is amazing. Science is advancement. And sometimes, science is art. Each month this year Memetic Drift will feature a winning image from the University of Bristol’s Art of Science competition 2014.


What looks like a creepy fish head in a box is actually part of important research working towards curing or preventing a nasty joint disease which makes putting the kettle on or getting out of bed excruciatingly painful. The image was compiled by Dr Chrissy Hammond (Schools of Biochemistry and Physiology & Pharmacology) and Professor Kate Robson Brown (School of Arts). 

This image shows the head of an adult zebrafish facing to the left. The denser the bone, the whiter it shows up – just like the medical X-rays you may have had. Behind the black holes left by the soft eyes you can see the brightness of three dense bones behind it. The fish uses these for balance among other things, similar to our own inner-ear bones. 

Ghost Face, by Chrissy Hammond and Kate Robson Brown

This image is actually a compilation of 400 X-rays stitched together by a computer, a technique called microCT. Together they form a 3D model you can pull around, drag and zoom as a virtual object. MicroCT is used not only in science but also in art and history, to look deeper into valuable artifacts without damaging the outside. 

This particular fish is normal and healthy but zebrafish can develop osteoarthritis, especially in the jaw area. Osteoarthritis is the result of smooth cartilage wearing away and replaced with bone tissue. This causes excruciating bone-on-bone rubbing from even the simplest movements, and there is no known cure beyond basic symptom management. 

By studying the progression of the disease in zebrafish, Chrissy’s lab hopes to learn more about how osteoarthritis develops. Her work has the eventual goal of discovering how to prevent or cure the disease which is painfully suffered by millions of people worldwide.

Next month, we continue the fish theme, but everything may not be as it seems…


The annual Art of Science competition at the University of Bristol bridges the perceived gap between art and science, showing imageds which visually demonstrate that the pursuit of knowledge can be as beautiful as it is fascinating. 

This year there were three prize categories; Judge’s vote, People’s vote, and Schools’ vote. Each category had a 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize, and a runner-up. Ghost Face won 3rd prize in the Schools’ vote. Image used with permission. 

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