Category Archives: data visualization

data visualization

The Grigorieff Lab at Brandeis University, a facility that uses high-resolution electron microscopy (EM) to study the three-dimensional (3D) structure of proteins and protein complexes. here are more information about the activity of the lab 







Transmission Electron Microscope.

TEMs use electrons as “light source” and their much lower wavelength makes it possible to get a resolution a thousand times better than with a light microscope(from the Nobel Prize website)

Hypothesized in 1929 by Knoll and Ruska at the Technische Hochschule, it was first built in 1932. A North American prototype of the transmission electron microscope (TEM) was constructed starting in 1937 at the University of Toronto. For a detailed account of the history and the politics involved in its construction and its initial and later applications see Rasmussen, N, in Studies In History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 1996






technologies as convergence

Van Loon points out that, if technoscience is driven by a desire for the “colonization of the unknown,” it can only do so by

creating another remainder: this remainder is none other than an index, which defies visualization (Van Loon 2002, p. 108).

The technologies used are responsible too for confirming such reminder, by simultaneously revealing, and building distance from the virus. By staining, magnifying, visualizing viruses trough a microscope, we are attempting to understand the subject and, thus, to neutralize our fear of what such invisible agent is capable of doing. By passing the object through a microscope we get data which then are processed and visualized or animated thanks to software and hardware. Paradoxically, the very technologies that should reveal, by displaying viruses (thus contributing to eliminate the fear they cause) end up making them disappear under multiple layers of technology and interpretations. At the same time, this series of translations and technological layering are generators of creativity, as a  diverse range of techniques and methodologies are continuously added to achieve different goals: aesthetic, medical, plain scientific, or methods that are just abiding to conventions dictated by popular culture.  By continuously iterating the idea of knowledge as both boundary-crossing and boundary-building, these technologies simultaneously reflect and reinforce both anxieties and curiosity engendered by the invisible and the microscopic.

visualizing malware

Pretty and dangerous…when computer viruses become aesthetics, or, computer viruses as Pharmakon

Malwarez is a series of visualization of worms, viruses, trojans and spyware code. For each piece of disassembled code, API calls, memory addresses and subroutines are tracked and analyzed. Their frequency, density and grouping are mapped to the inputs of an algorithm that grows a virtual 3D entity. Therefore the patterns and rhythms found in the data drive the configuration of the artificial organism.

There is so much to be said about this project: while we all know that computer viruses are no biological entities, this attempt at visualizing the dynamic data generated by one seems to suggest the opposite.

Technically speaking, computer and biological viruses are affiliated to two unbridgeable and well-separated spheres, one prevalently pertaining to the domain of information and the other to the one of carbon-based life. Their material formation contributes to such divergence: while computer viruses are normally fabricated by and partially depending on human agency, biological viruses are mostly understood as naturally occurring. Worms, Trojan horses and computer malware are often described as if they were digital version of the natural ecosystem. However, a real intertwining and merging with such system is still confined to the domain of science fiction. The two realms do not speak to each other. But despite the factual and easily discernible discrepancies between computer and biological viruses, the first are affiliated with the latter, to the extent that, in most cases, their existences appear intimately entangled. One element seems to confirm this kinship: their invisibility.

mydoom, a malware visualization by Alex Draculescu

With their submicroscopic size, biological viruses constitute some of the smallest biological agents known. This makes them inscrutable to the human eye. Strolling the Internet and hiding in the most recondite folds of our computers, computer viruses are mainly made of code. The user needs a considerable amount of technical skills to detect them. Once disassembled, they provide nothing to the user’s sight.

Draculescu’s work shows not only the reliance on the visual imaginary of the biological as necessary operation to ensure the deciphering of this image (that is, the almost instinctive association of this image with the biological antecedent of malware) , but also the tendency to make this visual product appealing and terrifying at the same time. Ultimately, this image shows how the biological and the informational are, indeed inseparable. the layers of software applications  needed to reach this result function for us as filters that transform the “object” of study and turn the objects themselves into keens and converging entities