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See Inside December 2009

Illuminating the Lilliputian: 10 Bioscapes Photo Contest Winners Revealed

A gallery of images captured by light microscopy reveals the high art of the natural world

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We are approaching the millennial anniversary of the first meaningful written description of how lenses and light could be used to magnify objects. It was in 1011 that Arab scientist Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) began writing the Book of Optics, which described the properties of a magnifying glass, principles that later led to the invention of the microscope. The entrants in the 2009 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition provide fitting tribute to nearly 1,000 years of making the invisible visible.

Optical microscopy, energized by generation after generation of technological advance, continues to furnish dazzling proof that beyond the resolution of the human eye resides a sweepingly large world of small things, both around and within us. The artistic beauty of the microcosm can be witnessed in these photographs of the beadlike band of toxin-carrying compartments on the tentacle of the Portuguese man-of-war, the gemlike quality of row on row of single-celled algae and the red-and-yellow patterning of a Triceratops bone, reminiscent of a loud necktie. A selection of winning and honorable mention images that particularly appealed to us at Scientific American follows.

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