- This information graphic artwork is part of a series featured in Top Chef Masters “Blinded Me With Science” Episode. (Shots with the art: Video 1, Video 2, Video 3, Video 4, Photos 15-26). Refer to the post Quick & Easy (Food) Science Art! to read about the governing process and all the topics involved.
- I was in charge of the whole design (like being my own client), with a team of scientists for research and advice, though I also did some research and learned everything they threw at me. On this illustration, the scientist mentors were Kevin Miklaz, Julia Stewart, and Carolyn Tepolt, and also with a few comments from Heidi Bednar (the Viscosity scientist on the show who came into the process at the end). The schedule only allowed me a few hours to understand the concepts at molecular levels.
- This is just a selection of the studies produced, by far not all of them.
- Unless noted otherwise, all quotes are my own, from the discussion with the scientists.
On this illustration there was a clear direction from the beginning: compare honey dropping from a spoon to water Kevin said! “If we compare water to honey, can we just say syrup instead of honey to be more generic/general?” And then there were three. “I can show the spoons dropping the liquid: water, honey, and maybe another one (oil?) in between so it’s kind of like a growing graph, rather than one vs. the other.”
Since a lot of the scientists’ explanations dealt with the bonds, or intermolecular forces, that cause a material to be more or less viscous, blow-ups of those clearly needed a place.
After reading about motor oil and how it is affected by temperature, I thought that might be another level of information that we could add to the graph.
And then there were six. “First I had just the three of them, but since we don’t want people to think it is only a quality of syrups [water based], I thought to include other liquids found in the kitchen…. Which other liquid? Oil I thought since it’s used in cooking. Or the white part of an egg?”
In the lower zone, “I tried to correlate the molecular [zoom] with the liquid pouring, but there are several activities (stirring, mixing, and heating) that are separate of the pure conditions of the liquids untouched at room temperature,” and so that zone had to disconnect from the top graph and stand as its own illustration, showing what makes a material less viscous.
After the design organization was set, I worked to develop the molecular zooms.
“How is it that water molecules bond to other water molecules (which part, etc.) and the same for the other liquids… what bonds them is complicated…”
“So, after a nerdify-ing attempt at correctly replicating the H2O molecule (yes, I researched atomic diameter and angles of connections), I’ve decided to make them simpler because the atom shapes were distracting from the bond, which needs to be noticed.” Though the bonds between molecules do not visually look like these long extensions and have rather more to do with intermolecular forces, since the design discusses how the bonds get weaker and break, for simplicity of explanation, they were diagrammatically represented in a form-like way.
On the final version, several changes were made and typos corrected.
- The egg white was replaced by chocolate sauce because egg white is not that viscous; other material properties give the drop that long shape.
- The category “Material Property” was stamped on after I noticed that the science topics fall into distinct categories – properties of materials vs processes – that should be differentiated.
- The 007 reference was dropped to avoid copyright issues.
- The background color became appetite friendly. The blue had been just thrown down temporarily, though defended by Conan’s, Jon Stewart’s and Colbert’s blue backgrounds (which I gather highlight skin tones). A simple Google search for the word “food” reinforced guesses about the typical colors of food.