Electron Microscopes

You know what I like? Images created by electron microscopes, they are just really cool. I mean take something like pollen; most of us know it is important to flowers, clings to bees legs, and causes many of us irritating allergies, but for the most part we just think of is as weird yellow flower dust (which may or may not be in someway related to fairy dust, not gay fairies, just whimsical little winged people). But if we take some pollen and bombard it with a bunch of electrons then we get this really cool enlarged image showing us all this detail that we never realized existed. The electron microscope brings to our eyes a world completely beyond our normal capacity of vision. You can make a pin look dull by zooming in enough, and you can make a dust mite look like some giant monstrosity that would appear in a B-rate horror film. I love how on some electron microscope images they use artificial coloring making cells look wacky colors like neon green or something. It must have been wild when the first electron microscope images were produced (just as it must have been wild when Leeuwenhoek was looking through his early microscope and saw little living things). We live in an age where we take for granted the knowledge produced by advanced technology such as microscopes or telescopes (or various other scopes). But hundreds of years ago people had know clue that there were millions of bacteria all around us or that stars were giant burning balls of hydrogen (they probably didn’t even know what hydrogen was). I mean if you tried to tell somebody from the middle ages that his or her body was made up of millions and millions of individual cells they would probably think that you were crazy (or possibly that you were a witch, a witch that needed a good burning). I love this stuff, you know, the study of atoms and cells, or looking way out into space at far away galaxies. An electron microscope can make something mundane like a fingernail look like an alien landscape with complex geometric beauty. Call me a nerd, if you want, for finding this stuff fascinating but I love it. I can spend hours reading about space or cells or all the cool jazz that physicists are trying to do with atoms and electrons. I really regret that I am not that strong at math because I feel like that is what kept me from pursuing a degree in some field of science. But yeah, electron microscopes are awesome. We had an old one (no longer functioning) in the lobby of Boyd Hall (science building) at PSU. It was this huge massive device with a bunch of knobs and switches, it looked like the main controls for a doomsday machine or something, except there was a friendly little plaque on it that said that it was an old retired electron microscope. Really really cool.

Pollen

~ by Nathaniel on September 28, 2007.

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