Tag Archives: microscope

A Lively Mandala

Life...don't talk to me about life...

Life…don’t talk to me about life…

Complexity. I really, really want a macro lens for my camera so that I can take pictures of minuscule insects; they tend to have really complex patterns on their little carapaces. So much of the world is not merely beneath the notice of human beings, but beneath the ability of human beings to notice. Yesterday, while helping the girl with vocabulary words, I helped her understand the difference between a telescope and a microscope. Telescopes show us things that are big but too far away to see, while microscopes show us things that are close but too tiny to see.

“But not germs,” she told me. “They’re too tiny for microscopes.”

But of course, they’re not. “They’re too tiny for the microscopes in your school, but not for scanning electron microscopes.”

Those pictures are amazing. Have you seen these high rez images of tardigrades swimming along like the kings of the universe? How about simple viruses and bacteria? There is an entire alien world living in your bellybutton. And smaller than that, photos of atoms: like, the actual building blocks of matter atoms. I remember having my mind blown by this 25 years ago. And then tinier still, subatomic particles whose existence we can observe only in partial glimpses, whose physicality we possibly couldn’t even comprehend even with┬ávisual perception.

Extremely small things really demonstrate how large the universe really is. We can’t even sense its superlatives.

Anyway, this mandala looks to me like something a scientist in a movie based on an HP Lovecraft story would observe when asked to magnify┬ásmall sample of an alien organism. And the pallid, bespectacled academic explorer who’d acquired the sample, which was discovered 100 years ago buried under the Antarctic tundra, would bemoan the fact that the species was long extinct and the world would never know this beautiful creature, but then the scientist would notice that the cell was only dormant. Awakened by the heat of the electronic equipment, the cell would begin rapid mitosis. Within twenty hours, the scientist would be dead and the wild-haired, wild-eyed explorer would be ranting in Arkham Asylum about the ancient menace waiting to devour the world.