Japanese artist Iori Tomita beautifully blends science and art in his series "New World Transparent Specimens" by chemically bleaching and then dying preserved animal bodies. The process uses a chemical mix that breaks down the proteins of the animal while leaving behind collagen that lets the body hold its form. Dyes are used to color the bones red and the tendons blue. When a properly prepared specimen is suspended in a tub of brightly-lit glycerin, the outer shape falls away to translucency, leaving behind all the form and structure of the skeletal system.

Translucent octopuses

The effect is colorful and otherworldly.

translucent fish in jars

The technique of rendering a body translucent is an old one that is used by scientists to study animal forms. NPR's Science Friday put together a great video showing scientist Adam Summers of the University of Washington's Friday Harbor Labs at work in his own lab clearing and staining the sea life he studies. Give it a watch:

Click over to Iori Tomita's site to see more translucent animals from his collection.

Translucent sea horse

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Shea Gunther is a podcaster, writer, and entrepreneur living in Portland, Maine. He hosts the popular podcast "Marijuana Today Daily" and was a founder of Renewable Choice Energy, the country's leading provider of wind credits and Green Options. He plays a lot of ultimate frisbee and loves bad jokes.

Using chemistry to make otherworldly art
Artist Iori Tomita explores the natural art of the skeletal system by exploiting clever chemistry tricks. See how it's done.