2 scientists turned a human organ into an art project. Here are 11 stunning images.

Greg Dunn and Brian Edwards are scientists-turned-artists.

In their new project "Self Reflected," Dunn and Edwards used a new technique called micro-etching to illuminate one specific organ in the human body.

The pair developed the technique, which combines hand drawing, gilding, and photolithography along with data visualizations to create amazing art. It allows dynamic control of an image and its colors using reflective gold surfaces.


They took a slice of tissue of this mystery human organ and magnified it 22 times. And what they created was beyond incredible.

Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

The kaleidoscopic vividness is surreal, but the sheer beauty of the images is only part of the story.

Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

Each image looks wholly unique, but all the images are from a single human organ.

Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

Can you guess what organ it is? We'll give you a hint...

Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

If you zoom out a bit you'll see that...

Self-reflected in violets — the entire self reflected in micro-etching under violet and white light. Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

...it's the brain!

Surprising, I know. My eyes still don't believe that this is a slice of the visual cortex.

The visual cortex, the region located at the back of the brain that processes visual information. Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

Or that this is a 22-times magnification of our brain stem.

Raw colorized micro-etching data from the reticular formation and brainstem. Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

But that's the beautiful gilded truth.

The midbrain, an area that carries out diverse functions in reward, eye movement, hearing, attention, and movement. Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

“Self Reflected was created to remind us that the most marvelous machine in the known universe is at the core of our being and is the root of our shared humanity,” they wrote on their site.

The thalamus and basal ganglia, sorting senses, initiating movement, and making decisions. Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

Combined, all the images in the series show only 500,000 neurons and circuits of the billions in the human brain. The images were hand-gilded with 1,750 sheets of 22-karat gold leaf.

The pons, a region involved in movement and implicated in consciousness. Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

The first version of "Self Reflected," which consists of 25 etched panels of the brain, is on permanent display at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. The micro-etching technique makes the appearance of the art completely dependent on lighting that can change the viewers’ experience each time they look at it.

The entire Self Reflected micro-etching under white light. Photo by Greg Dunn and Will Drinker.

The ornate beauty of these images offers much more than what's on its surface. They are a glimpse into the organ that sets us apart as a species, that allows us the ability to create and appreciate art like this.

What Dunn and Edwards have done with this project is more than science and more than art — they've examined the deepest areas of our mind and found beauty reflected back at them.

Watch the video below to learn more about the project:

Clarification 4/29/2017: The article was updated to clarify that this photo project shows about 500,000 neurons and circuits in the brain, but in total the brain contains millions of them.

True

Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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Did you know that the simple act of smiling can trick your brain into feeling better, improve your health, and even help you live longer? It's true. Science says.

If you're looking for a reason to smile, here are ten of them.

1. The way this grandma says, "I'm so happy to see you!"

A young woman shared that her grandma always comes to check on her when she hasn't come out of her room for a while. "You want some food???" This is just too wholesome. Watch the whole thing.


2. These two geese were mesmerized by a man playing harmonica in a Taipei park.

Qiqi and Fanfan are into it, y'all. Listen to them try to join in a few times.

3. Ryan Reynolds and a special guest singing six-part harmony? Yes, please.

The Grace Kelly TikTok challenge had people singing the chorus to Mika's 2007 song "Grace Kelly" with various harmonies. I won't give away the cameo here, in case you haven't seen it yet. So fun. Read more about it here.

4. This dad knew his daughter was a prankster, and yet she managed to trick him anyway.

Aryanna's got skills. Dad knows she's got skills. The way he immediately looks all around for traps and still gets surprised. That grin on her face, too. So dang funny. Read the full story here.

5. Norm MacDonald's heartwarming advice to a fan who lost his mother.

The iconic comedian's passing at 61 came as a surprise, but his advice for how to handle grief is a lesson for us all: "Take all the love you have for her, Pablo, and give it freely to all that you meet. Your mom will look down upon you, happy and proud."

6. A Portland cat cafe reopened, and all the cats up for adoption got homes in less than a day.

First of all, the cafe is called Purrington's. I mean, come on. Second of all, it's a cafe where you can hang out with cats that need homes, which is awesome. The cafe had hit some snags in recent years with COVID restrictions and whatnot, but on the day of its reopening, every cat got a home. Yay for the kitties. Read the full story here.


7. This is seriously the greatest "walk of shame" I've ever seen.

At first, you're thinking, "Why is that guy walking into a park pond?" Then it's, "Ooooh. I see." Then finally, "OMG that right there is what living life to its fullest looks like."

8. The U.S. is reportedly buying 500 million more vaccines to donate to the rest of the world.

We're all in this together, literally. The only way we're going to get the pandemic under control is to make sure everyone has access to COVID vaccines. The need is great, but we're stepping up to help meet it. Love to see the U.S. taking leadership on this front.

Read the full story here.

Photo by Mat Napo on Unsplash


9. New Zealand firefighters offer a Haka to honor the first responders who perished on 9/11.

Okay, this one might make you smile and cry at the same time. Such a beautiful offering and reminder of how connected we all are.

10. Watch this street photographer help an elderly Italian woman see her own beauty.

Dino Serrao's TikTok channel is the place to go when you want to be reminded of the unique beauty in every human being. All of his videos are great, but this one is so heartwarming. Their interaction is so sweet, but her recognizing her own gorgeousness after initially telling him she didn't want her picture taken is just wonderful.


I hope that brought a little joy and hope into your day! Come back to Upworthy again next Friday for ten more reasons to smile. :)