Scales of Seeing

Reflecting on my experience from the Nature Lab I was blown away from the level of depth and transformations of material under the microscope that could be achieved. Looking at the fangs of a tarantula I was able to slowly zoom in until I could see past the coarse hair and see a kind of fur underneath with small crystalline structures scattered geometrically through out the appendage. It was impressive in that something that started off looking very ragged ended up resembling a couture fur coat on closer inspection.

I wouldn’t go so far as saying that the use of the microscope was alienating or an abstraction of the original object, at least not the stereomicroscopes that I was using. The slow zoom in from a recognizable magnification of 18x to the maximum point of 300x allowed me a point of understanding of how the objects and specimens were grown or constructed naturally. One particularly interesting specimen was that of a wasp’s nest, being able to see inside the honeycomb structure and really make out the octagonal openings makes me feel I understand the life of a wasp more now.

What I witnessed as peculiarly alienating was the SEM magnifying a few grains of sand to 20,000 times. Something so small and miniscule that can make its way into ones sock, was found to look like terrestrial planets or asteroids inhabiting another universe was truly bizarre. Beyond that, needing a map to navigate something with the surface area of a penny is just mind-boggling.

Thinking back to Hooke’s “Micrographia” I can see how radical the microscope was, while still having a tangible feeling of reality. Upon viewing a fly’s head at around 100X (what I presume was around the capabilities of Hook’s microscope) I could see in detail the individual eyes it possessed instead of just looking like a complex pattern, or make out the tiny hairs it has on its body invisible to the natural eye. In this way I can imagine how exciting these breakthroughs were at the time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.