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Artificial Intelligence (AI) can create incredible images just from short, text-based prompts. Normally, the Double Helix team always sources real images for the very real science we report on. But AI’s ability to create imaginative pictures is a perfect fit for the fiction story in each issue of Double Helix. So, we are carefully using an AI called Midjourney to generate these illustrations.

Our AI experiments have resulted in some fantastic images… but not without time-consuming trial-and-error. Here, we show some of our process, some of our errors, plus a sneak peak of Double Helix 69’s fiction illustration. Let’s dive in!

Round eyed Alien disc Jockey spinning LP's.
An alien DJ for the fiction story in our Sound issue
Credit: Midjourney

First, we read the fiction story for the “Life in Space” issue of Double Helix. “No Space For Yourself” follows a nervous man aboard a tourist spaceship. Even while experiencing zero gravity, he lists off all the ways that space is bad for the human body. From solar flares to sleep disturbances, he is so thorough that he stresses out the captain!

Next, we pick key phrases as prompts for Midjourney. Here’s what we got with the prompt, “Man floats in zero gravity above a space station corridor, cartoon style”.


It’s a bit boring and he seems to be missing a leg.

Astronaut without their helmet floating in a tunnel.
Credit: Midjourney

We add the phrase “cartoon style” to make sure our images are obviously illustrations. Midjourney can make photo-realistic images, but we want to make sure no one confuses AI images as real. We also think they look good in this style! Here’s another image we got with the same prompt as above.


The background for this image is beautiful. However, the man isn’t floating, and unfortunately, the picture doesn’t really fit the story.

Astronaut walking over a bridge with pink sky behind.
Credit: Midjourney

There’s something missing from the pictures so far. They’re not really very exciting. So we try adding in more exciting things to the prompt, like solar flares! Here’s what we got with, “Solar radiation hitting a futuristic spaceship orbiting above Earth, cartoon style”.

The details of the ship are neat, but the sun is a bit boring.

Space ship with golden metallic glow and Earth and the Sun in the background.
Credit: Midjourney

Next, we decided to combine the two ideas above with the prompt, “A futuristic astronaut floating in front of a solar flare, cartoon style”.

This one looks really cool. And it illustrates one of the major plot points of the story.

Astronaut floating in front of solar flare.
Credit: Midjourney

Finally, we tried to capture the success above while bringing back the imagery of a spaceship corridor. We used the prompt, “man floating above space station corridor with sun streaming through a window behind him, cartoon style”.


This one is also great. However, the man looks like he is falling rather than floating.

Man floating in tunnel with sun streaming through a window behind him.
Credit: Midjourney

Overall, the process takes about 2-3 hours and there are lots of intermediate images to consider. In the end we went with the futuristic astronaut in front of a solar flare. To read the full fiction story and to see the image in all its glory, subscribe to Double Helix!


What do you think? Tell us your favourite image in the comments.

One response

  1. Anna Avatar
    Anna

    I think it’s great you are enjoying artwork and crediting Midjourney, however Midjourney does not pay or credit the artists it steals from. Paying and using Midjourney is theft. Artists are already underpaid and undervalued. It’s a shame a government science organisation is promoting this.

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