The fiery image burning and ripping its way across this month's cover is the winner of our 2007 competition to find the best materials research-related image. Our congratulations go to Pedro M. F. J. Costa of the National Institute of Materials Science in Japan, who produced this colorized transmission electron microscopy image of a large, 50 nm thick CdS nanobelt entangled by a smaller CdS nanobelt.

Costa's winning entry was the unanimous decision of our judges, Steve Pearton of the University of Florida and Martin Conreen, a design lecturer at Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK. And I can see why. It is a strong, arresting, dynamic image. Perhaps there is even a feeling of struggle or conflict in the narrow strips, sharp colors, and entangled forms, which may reflect that the large belt has been deformed by a piezo-holder. “The lists seen are due to strain (local bending) while the yellow flares are derived from image delocalization effects,” explains Costa, further augmenting the overall effect.

We have run a similar image competition, with the winner appearing on our December issue cover, for a few years now. It is always a joy to look through the entrants. Again this year we received around 200 images, and the overall standard improved once more. It feels like a celebration of materials science; the wonder and beauty that can be revealed when materials and structures are studied at the microscopic level. You can judge for yourselves on our website, where we have a gallery of the 15 finalists.

It is entirely appropriate that the cover competition coincides with this issue on tomography. There is great power in moving beyond analysis of two-dimensional images of surfaces and sections by adding a third dimension. Hopefully, a more truthful representation of a sample is obtained, revealing the variation and connectivities throughout a material's volume. Handling and displaying this data becomes equally important, and also produces impressive images.

Elsewhere in this issue, there is an equal satisfaction in the clever combination of form and function in motion structures, as described by Zhong You on page 52. These mechanisms allow closed, packed away structures to unfold and expand for use, and are behind such familiar items as umbrellas, the retractable roofs on sports grounds, and the wings of beetles, as well as the more technological cardiovascular stents and solar panels for satellites. There is obvious interest for materials engineering here.

On page 6, Steve Pearton rails that materials scientists aren't wacky or extrovert enough in their pronouncements to gain any interest from the general population. Well, I am quietly confident that materials science has much to satisfy and fascinate, from captivating images revealing new insights to novel engineering solutions.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(07)70291-2