SCIENCE

Hand-Cut Paper Sculpture Makes Microbes Look Breathtakingly Beautiful

04/10/2015 08:42 am ET | Updated Apr 15, 2015

Who knew bacteria could be so mesmerizing?

Rogan Brown, for one. The artist, based in southern France, has created a stunning paper sculpture that resembles a gigantic bacterium. Based loosely on E. coli and Salmonella, the giant germ sports hair-like structures called "pili" and tentacle-like appendages. It took four months to build.

“I’ve clearly embellished these aspects of the bug in order to make it more visually impressive and perhaps also a little frightening,” Brown said in a written statement. "However, it is important to note that the vast majority of bacteria in the human body are completely benign, helping our bodies to function in ways that scientists are only now beginning to understand."

Brown's work will be part of a new exhibition about bacteria in the human body that launches in May at the Eden Project in Cornwall, England.

Have an up-close look at the baffling bacterium sculpture in the eye-popping photos below.

  • These tentacle-like structures are "flagella," which help bacteria swim through the intestinal tract. The hair-like structures are the "pili" that allow the bugs to attach themselves to the intestinal wall.
  • A representation of the precious cargo carried inside a bacterium: DNA.
  • This microbe structure is based on E. coli and Salmonella bacteria.
  • A closer look at "flagella" and "pili."
  • Bacterium using its "flagella" or tentacle-like appendages to swim.
  • The inner structure of a bacterium.

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