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See Inside December 2011

Dazzling Miniatures: View Highlights from BioScapes Photo Contest

Small worlds writ large under the microscope

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Microscopy remains one of the few areas of science in which enthusiastic amateurs can make others take notice. Nonprofessionals routinely produce stunning images of creatures and objects too tiny for the eye to resolve. This crowdsourcing of microscopic imagery arrived long before the invention of the smartphone and networked communications: the amateur has long made a mark with the microscope—in the early years, by hand drawing images that appeared underneath the lens, and, in more recent times, with the added realism brought by the photograph.

This noble tradition continues in our pages, as we offer a selection of photographs from the Olympus BioScapes International Digital Imaging Competition—a magnet for hobbyists as well as scientists who wish to show off their picture-taking skills. This year’s entries feature the work of a lay microscopist who found his subject while hiking on a mountain in Greece. To produce another entry, a cell biologist took a sophisticated microscope acquired at an auction to snap a shot of a translucent zooplankton skeleton. The photo session had nothing to do with his work but served to memorialize the skeleton’s sheer structural beauty. Inspect for yourself the hypervivid color and intricate geometry of these Lilliputian neighbors that we too seldom get a chance to meet.

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