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See Inside August 2010

Filming the Invisible in 4-D

Picture this: a movie revealing the inner workings of a cell or showing a nanomachine in action. A new microscopy is making such imaging possible

The human eye is limited in its vision. We cannot see objects much thinner than a human hair (a fraction of a millimeter) or resolve motions quicker than a blink (a tenth of a second). Advances in optics and microscopy over the past millennium have, of course, let us peer far beyond the limits of the naked eye, to view exquisite images such as a micrograph of a virus or a stroboscopic photograph of a bullet at the millisecond it punched through a lightbulb. But if we were shown a movie depicting atoms jiggling around, until recently we could be reasonably sure we were looking at a cartoon, an artist's impression or a simulation of some sort.

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