I could spend hours staring at scanning electron micrographs (SEMs) and transmission electron micrographs (TEMs). Created using highly specialized microscopes, these images are tools for discovery, making unknown worlds visible to the naked eye.
How it works:
These images are a marriage of art and science. They’re created using machines that are scientific instruments, not cameras. The process differs from subject to subject depending on the sample and the type of machine being used. All non-electrically conductive samples must be coated in electrically conducting material, usually gold. For biological samples, water needs to be removed, which can be done using various chemicals or by freezing the sample at ultra-low temperatures. Once ready, the specimen is placed in the imaging chamber, where it is bombarded with electrons. The images produced are black and white. In post-production, they’re digitally colored to enhance important features — and to create beautiful images.
Making unknown worlds visible.
What we see:
You can count the hairs on the face of an ant, catch a spider’s spinnerets ejecting silk, and see the needle of a mosquito’s proboscis. You can observe the shape of a cancer cell or the stem cell used in cancer treatment. You can view E. coli bacteria or the fruiting body of penicillin mold. Ordinary objects such as the gears of a watch or woven cloth are illuminated in fascinating detail. And it takes just one look at ragweed pollen to understand why it makes people sneeze. Human hairs become artful: they look like tree trunks. Best of all, you can see in great detail neurons, blood cells, sperm — the cells we’re all made of.