Is There Beauty in the Coronavirus?

Is there beauty in a deadly coronavirus? These beautiful images of the virus are scientifically accurate watercolors by David Goodsell.


Goodsell never disappoints. His images are as lovely and accurate as always.

I guess one can say the coronavirus is beauty, but a deadly one at that.


Many deadly things are beautiful, ranging from freezing arctic winters, the atmosphere of Jupiter, through nuclear explosions, to poisonous snakes. The corona virus is no exception.


Great article @Kristel.


The softness of the paintings is definitely intriguing and draws you in - they look garden-like. There is an interesting contrast between the spring-like and autumnal colors but there’s nothing that’s repulsive, which makes you want to study them. Art for scientists for sure. :slightly_smiling_face:


What is the commonality across those disparate things? What makes them beautiful?

Am I mistaken to think that the colors in the illustration are not from real life but are arbitrary, chosen for aesthetic reasons and to clarify the different molecules? My understanding is that these molecules are too small, relative to the wavelengths in the visible spectrum, to actually have colors.


Probably yes they are arbitrarily chosen.

No. Many relatively small organic molecules have colors in the visible spectrum and constitute strong pigments. Melanin is an example.

Proteins are definitely large enough to have colors. Famously Green fluorescent Protein(GFP) will glow green when exposed to blue light.

I once purified a lentivirus(it was actually a modified form of HIV used as a DNA delivery vector in cancer research) and was surprised to discover that it was bright blue.


I stand corrected on the colors of macromolecules (and even mesomolecules and micromolecules). Though those don’t seem to be what determined the colors used in the coronavirus illustration.

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Yeah those are probably just picked for aesthetic reasons.

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It’s also like a scientific figure in that the colors are picked to visually distinguish different protein types.

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Reminds me of a kaleidoscopic image. Personally, I think it’s more visually appealing because it’s symmetrical in the broad strokes but not in the details. I guess there’s beauty to be found even in the gifts of Nurgle.


I wonder what would be the take of a physician who has actually managed Covid-19 patients. Someone who has seen seriously sick people die or suffer immensely due to the virus. Will they, like traumatized soldiers, not see this beauty but be revolted by it? @Faizal_Ali, what’s your take on this?

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Not sure there is something they all have in common. The spiraling patterns of mixing gases and gigantic hurricanes on Jupiter are incredible:

Edit: This one here above is actually Saturn’s north pole.
The rest are from Jupiter:


Thanks, Joshua!

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I don’t have any particular insight to offer, sorry. Some colleagues I do know who are closer to front lines are feeling overburdened, but not overwhelmed or burnt out.

I presumed that as a psychiatrist, you may have had patients suffering from PTSD, so I thought whether you could give some prognosis for front line health workers, based on that.

Nor personally. However, this paper seems to provide some interesting insights:

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