Slideshow: EPSRC photography competition winners

31 March 2014
By Edd Gent
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Weird and Wonderful, 1st Place – A robot programmed with novel social intelligence algorithms performs a stand-up routine at London’s Barbican Centre [Credit: Toby Harris]
Weird and Wonderful, 1st Place – A robot programmed with novel social intelligence algorithms performs a stand-up routine at London’s Barbican Centre [Credit: Toby Harris]
Weird and Wonderful, 2nd Place – No matter how it’s placed on a flat surface, the Gömböc, the world’s only artificial self-righting shape borne out of complex mathematical theory, will right itself [Credit: Alain Goriely]
Weird and Wonderful, 2nd Place – No matter how it’s placed on a flat surface, the Gömböc, the world’s only artificial self-righting shape borne out of complex mathematical theory, will right itself [Credit: Alain Goriely]
 Weird and Wonderful, 3rd Place – The modelling and simulation of soft tissue is helping researchers to produce detailed facial animations for computer graphics applications [Credit: Mark Warburton]

 Weird and Wonderful, 3rd Place – The modelling and simulation of soft tissue is helping researchers to produce detailed facial animations for computer graphics applications [Credit: Mark Warburton]

Discovery, 1st Place – Salt water accelerates into fresh water illustrating the Rayleigh-Taylor instability, which mixes two fluids of different densities [Credit: Megan Davies Wykes]

Discovery, 1st Place – Salt water accelerates into fresh water illustrating the Rayleigh-Taylor instability, which mixes two fluids of different densities [Credit: Megan Davies Wykes]

Discovery, 2nd Place – Measurements of graphene’s electrical capacitance (its ability to store an electric charge) when subjected to a magnetic field [Credit: Konstantin Novoselov and Daniel Elias]

Discovery, 2nd Place – Measurements of graphene’s electrical capacitance (its ability to store an electric charge) when subjected to a magnetic field [Credit: Konstantin Novoselov and Daniel Elias]

Discovery, 3rd Place – Fieldworkers from the University of Manchester collect fossil samples in a deep cave system on Cayman Brac in the Caribbean [Credit: Phil Manning]

Discovery, 3rd Place – Fieldworkers from the University of Manchester collect fossil samples in a deep cave system on Cayman Brac in the Caribbean [Credit: Phil Manning]

Equipment, 1st Place – A lab-on-a-chip micromixer designed to improve the mixing speed in the production of liposomes used in vaccine formulations [Credit: Elisabeth Kastner]

Equipment, 1st Place – A lab-on-a-chip micromixer designed to improve the mixing speed in the production of liposomes used in vaccine formulations [Credit: Elisabeth Kastner]

Equipment, 2nd Place – A giant drill supported by a synthetic polymer solution that changes its viscosity according to how fast it flows – it’s thick when sitting still and liquid when flowing fast [Credit: Carlos Lam]

Equipment, 2nd Place – A giant drill supported by a synthetic polymer solution that changes its viscosity according to how fast it flows – it’s thick when sitting still and liquid when flowing fast [Credit: Carlos Lam]

Equipment, 3rd Place – A pneumatic syringe is used to 3D-print a complex hollow component in bronze which was later fired in a kiln [Credit: Esteban Schunemann]

Equipment, 3rd Place – A pneumatic syringe is used to 3D-print a complex hollow component in bronze which was later fired in a kiln [Credit: Esteban Schunemann]

Innovation, 1st Place – Lung cancer cells (green) captured in the process of taking up carbon nanotube nanoneedles (gold), which could one day be used to deliver targeted drug therapies [Credit: Khuloud Al-Jamal and Izzat Suffian]

Innovation, 1st Place – Lung cancer cells (green) captured in the process of taking up carbon nanotube nanoneedles (gold), which could one day be used to deliver targeted drug therapies [Credit: Khuloud Al-Jamal and Izzat Suffian]

Innovation, 2nd Place – Each light in the FloorPlay display in the Engineering Building at UCL can be independently lit in one of millions of different colours, allowing the display to be used as a platform for many different projects [Credit: Daniel Harrison]

Innovation, 2nd Place – Each light in the FloorPlay display in the Engineering Building at UCL can be independently lit in one of millions of different colours, allowing the display to be used as a platform for many different projects [Credit: Daniel Harrison]

Innovation, 3rd Place – A delicate pattern ‘laser written’ into a tiny 2x2cm piece of titanium by forming a thin oxide film on the surface [Credit: Svetlana Zolotovskaya]

Innovation, 3rd Place – A delicate pattern ‘laser written’ into a tiny 2x2cm piece of titanium by forming a thin oxide film on the surface [Credit: Svetlana Zolotovskaya]

People, 1st Place – An equation explains how Maths masters student Joana appears to float thanks to digital inpainting, which uses sophisticated mathematical algorithms to retouch digital images or remove a stool in this case [ Credit: Carola-Bibiane Schoenlieb, Joana Grah and Kostas Papafitsoros]

People, 1st Place – An equation explains how Maths masters student Joana appears to float thanks to digital inpainting, which uses sophisticated mathematical algorithms to retouch digital images or remove a stool in this case [ Credit: Carola-Bibiane Schoenlieb, Joana Grah and Kostas Papafitsoros]

People, 2nd Place – Forest-dwelling Mbendjele Pygmies in Republic of the Congo use a picture-based smartphone app to map their local resources and record evidence of illegal logging activity [Credit: Gill Conquest]

People, 2nd Place – Forest-dwelling Mbendjele Pygmies in Republic of the Congo use a picture-based smartphone app to map their local resources and record evidence of illegal logging activity [Credit: Gill Conquest]

People, 3rd Place – Academics and software engineers enjoy a machine learning version of charades, as part of the Robozoo project, a week-long retreat to experiment with 3D-printed robots for use in cognitive robotics research [Credit: Chrisantha Fernando]

People, 3rd Place – Academics and software engineers enjoy a machine learning version of charades, as part of the Robozoo project, a week-long retreat to experiment with 3D-printed robots for use in cognitive robotics research [Credit: Chrisantha Fernando]

A picture of a joke-telling robot that can tailor its stand-up routine in real time has won the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) photography competition.

Comedy Lab: Human vs Robot, by Toby Harris, a PhD student at Queen Mary University of London’s Cognitive Science Research Group, was chosen as the overall winner from more than 250 entries featuring research in action, which were entered into EPSRC’s inaugural competition.

Harris said: “We're thrilled that our experiment pitting human stand-up comedians against a robot is inspiring others. This ground-breaking research is helping us to understand both what makes for a great performance and what makes for a compelling audience experience.

“We use new technologies to analyse people's moment-by-moment responses, so while teaching a robot stagecraft was fun, it was the ability to read and react to the audience that made it work.

“More than the creative industries are at stake here – by better understanding what happens between performers and audiences, we should gain new insights into the value of bringing students together for class, or workers to a conference table.”

The competition’s five categories were: Weird and Wonderful, Discovery, Equipment, Innovation, and People.

Among the science featured in the competition was the Rayleigh-Taylor instability shown in salt water as it accelerates into fresh water, the world’s only artificial self-righting shape the Gömböc, micro-scale vaccine mixing, cancer cells that resemble tropical islands seen from space, and mathematicians that appear to float.

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