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See Inside December 2010

Life Unseen: Images of Magnificent Microscopic Landscapes [Slide Show]

Scientific American presents this year's winning micro-imaging entries from the Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Contest



Spike Walker

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Nature looks fundamentally different depending on scale. This diversity is especially striking in the world of biology, where matter assembles itself in constantly renewing configurations, offering our eyes—aided by scientific instruments—limitless perspectives.

Thus, we can find beauty in places we did not suspect—inside a flower from a roadside weed, in the anatomical details of a flea or under a mushroom growing on a dead tree. Some people explore microscopic worlds for scientific reasons; others, such as Laurie Knight, for the sheer adventure. “The reason I do this,” he says, “is that I get to see things that a lot of people can’t really see.”

Fortunately, Knight and many others also like to share some of the vistas they discover. Every year scientists and hobbyists alike submit their microscopy art to the Olympus BioScapes International Digital Imaging Competition. These are images whose purpose is, in the words of another serious hobbyist, Edwin K. Lee, “to capture the combined essence of science and art.” And, in turn, every year we at Scientific American like to share with readers some of our favorite shots from that competition. Enjoy. 

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