Pretty Pictures

Originally posted on 29 Aug 2014

After two weeks of a semi-intensive microscopy workshop, I have learned several interesting things. Additionally, I have also learned some valuable life lessons.

  1. You’re never too old to be a crazy scientist. I know this because putting dry ice into a glass of lemonade is completely irrelevant but totally cool. Never grow up.
  2. The whole point of microscopy is to make pretty pictures². There are multiple ways of achieving this – obviously I am now an expert after this course – but if you want to be published, the end result just has to look amazing.

Exhibit A:

Light sheet microscopy image of a baby octopus (purple and blue in color)

Octopus bimaculoides. Light Sheet Fluorescence Microscopy with a Zeiss light sheet microscope (www.zeiss.com/lightsheet). Image courtesy of Eric Edsinger & Daniel S. Rokhsar, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology.

This looks absolutely incredible, right? It is a tiny embryo octopus, but don’t you just want to own it and train it and use it to be the very best? Of course you do!
Exhibit B:

Scanning Electron Microscopy image of protein-inorganic material hybrids that look like flowers

Image published in Nature Nanotechnology. “Protein-inorganic hybrid nanoflowers”, J. Ge, J. Lei and R.N. Zare. DOI: 10.1038/NNANO.2012.80

Sometimes not only the imaging technique, but the whole point of creating a structure is just to have something pretty, like this nanoflower. I’ve got to admit, giving me that on a first date would definitely work in your favour.
However, at this very moment; all I’m able to image are things like this:

Image of a MDCK 3D culture that looks like a peace-sign

Image taken on a Nikon eclipse TS100 at the University of Dundee.

Just look at those phase rings! And the bad resolution! Awful!
But at least this collection of cells looks pretty peaceful, so that’s something.
² Footnote (it is number two because of simplicity, ² is on my keyboard): this obviously isn’t true. The point is to make images that have the right quality to show what you want to know. It’s just more fun if they turn out to be pretty (and) awesome.

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