Alice’s Adventures in Microscopic Wonderland

27 Sep

National Science Foundation and Science Magazine’s 2008 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge First Place winner for Informational Graphics:

“Mad Hatter’s Tea,” Alice’s Adventures in Microscopic Wonderland, by Colleen Champ and Dennis Kunkel, Concise Image Studios!


From the NSF’s website:

While wandering through the forest of wonderland, Alice stumbles upon three beetles having tea. That’s not exactly how Lewis Carroll’s classic tale goes, but this recreation of the Mad Hatter’s tea could certainly belong in the story.

Freelance illustrator Colleen Champ produced her own version of the scene using micrographs by photomicrographer Dennis Kunkel. The goal was to demonstrate the fantastic nature of reality by arranging the actual images in fanciful ways, Champ says: “You cannot create anything yourself that hasn’t already been created in nature.”

She used Photoshop to transform three beetles into the Mad Hatter, March Hare, and the sleepy Dormouse. They sip tea at a table made of butterfly wings, set in a field of crystallized vitamin C while aphids fly overhead. A key beneath the main illustration identifies the source of each image, including the mold spores that make up the vast underground.

Kunkel says the work is a fruitful partnership between science and art: “She’s taken images from the minute world and put them together in such a way as to make them really compelling, exciting, and funny to look at.” Kunkel plans to develop a series of children’s books based on Champ’s images.

The interplay between fact and fancy also impressed the judges, who used the words “innovative” and “delightful” to describe the piece. Panel of finalist judges member Michael Keegan called it a “palatable introduction” to science, saying it provides an excellent way to attract children to the subject matter.

This story was also described in National Geographic and MSNBC.

I emailed Ms. Champ and she’s going to let me know when the book is available. But I want the book NOW!!! But I’ll wait patiently. :)

Okay, so this makes me want to reread my copy of Alice in Wonderland. I put that book in my “do not resell/I want to keep” stack of college books… Victorian fiction class, I think? I think we also read Peter Pan in that class…

FYI, “jabberwocky” comes from Lewis Carroll.

Also, as far as other photography/illustration contest winners, I also love the Little Shop of Horrors squid suckers and the Bible interconnectivity visualization!


Posted by on Saturday, September 27, 2008 in Random


4 responses to “Alice’s Adventures in Microscopic Wonderland

  1. Merele Palmer

    Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Colleen: This is great.

    Best Wishes


  2. jamie

    Monday, November 24, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I got a beautiful poster of the “mad hatters tea” here

  3. Birdie

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Hey! I bought the print! It’s so much better than what you can see in the mags–they have another image too, of a Hookah smoking caterpillar–not sure if this is for kids! it’s actually a termite sitting on a protozoa—CRAZY BUT I LOVE IT!!

  4. colleen champ

    Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    I’m glad you were happy with your print of “The Mad Hatter’s Tea”. There is a newer image in Wired Magazine, called “The White Rabbit”, in the March issue; it’s one that we did not create a giclee for. Check it out!


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