Stunning Images from the 2014 Olympus BioScapes International Digital Imaging Competition [Slideshow]
Microscopes find beauty in the most unexpected places
CANCER ON THE MOVE Some 90 percent of cancer-related deaths occur not as a result of the initial tumor itself but because cells migrate from that tumor to other parts of the body. This image of a bone cancer cell, by cell biologist Dylan Burnette of Vanderbilt University, shows the machinery that cancer cells use to spread into surrounding tissue...
Credit: Dylan Burnette of Vanderbilt University
Cervical cancer cells from a patient named Henrietta Lacks were the first human cells to be cloned. Scientists have used these HeLa cells, as they are commonly known, extensively in biomedical research because they propagate readily in culture and are hence “immortal,” as opposed to most other human cells, which tend to die in a matter of days... Credit: Thomas Deerinck of the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research at the University of California, San Diego
The pesky white crusts that collect on boat hulls conceal remarkably intricate creatures, as this photograph of a barnacle's legs reveals. Neurobiologist Igor Siwanowicz of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute produced the image by removing the animal's soft tissues and staining the remaining exoskeleton with dyes that bind to a polymer known as chitin... Credit: Igor Siwanowicz of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
The rear legs of insects called plant hoppers, known for their jumping ability, contain interlocking gear wheels that synchronize the leg movements of the peppercorn-size juveniles when they leap... Credit: Igor Siwanowicz of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Advertisement
The retina is a sheet of neurons lining the back of the eye that captures light from the outside world and translates it into electrical signals. In this image, produced by neuroscientist Chris Sekirnjak during his postdoctoral research at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., a guinea pig's retinal ganglion cells, which send impulses to the brain when light is detected, appear in yellow... Credit: Chris Sekirnjak / Salk Institute for Biological Studies
PLANT VASCULATURE A transversal section of the stem of a flowering plant of the Ranunculus genus reveals the elaborate patterning of the plant's vasculature. Cell walls appear in red, and chloroplasts—cell structures that capture energy from the sun—are in white...
Credit: Fernán Federici of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile
Fossil marine plankton in a cyst phase of life was found in a drill core from hundreds of meters below the floor of the Greenland Sea. “I was impressed by the fact that after millions of years, the microscopic structure of the cyst was so well preserved,” says Stanislav Vitha of Texas A&M University, who imaged the organism... Credit: Stanislav Vitha of Texas A&M University
CRAB SPIDER Amateur microscopist Geir A. M. Drange captured this close-up of the crab spider Misumena vatia , which he staged on a piece of dried maple leaf. In life, this arachnid can change color to blend in with its setting (frequently a flower of some kind)—a helpful trick for an ambush predator...
Credit: Geir A.M. Drange Advertisement
JAPANESE EEL DEVELOPMENT Stained tissue highlights the maturation of the Japanese eel, which is naturally transparent as a juvenile, from hatching ( far left ) through the first eight days. The head ( top ) grows rapidly, with the eyes and mouth appearing to be sufficiently developed by day eight ( far right ) for the young eel to begin hunting for food...
Credit: Tora Bardal of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology
HOUSE CRICKET TONGUE The tip of a house cricket's tongue is incredibly elaborate, with air-filled tubes ( silver ) that inflate the tongue and hoops made of the compound chitin that keep the tubes open. The exact function of this complex structure is unclear, says photographer David P...
David P. Maitland
SKIN CANCER In a form of skin cancer called cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, keratinocytes—the cells in the topmost layer of the skin—produce a protein known as DIAPH1 thatmay help promote the spread of the cancer to lymph nodes and lungs...
Credit: Gopinath Meenakshisundaram and Prabha Sampath of the Institute of Medical Biology in SingaporeGOPINATH
RAT BRAIN Madelyn E. May visualized the cerebral cortex, or gray matter, of a rat when she was an undergraduate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, as part of a larger effort to map in subcellular detail the glial cells that support and protect neurons...
Credit: Madelyn E. May / Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Advertisement Advertisement
The year was 1665. a young english scientist named robert hooke had published a book called
Micrographia that was soon to become a best seller. The book contained Hooke's descriptions and exquisite illustrations of previously invisible details of the natural world, made using the compound microscope he invented: the jointed legs of a flea, the many-lensed eyes of a drone fly, the stellar shapes of snowflakes. Perhaps most remarkable of all were his observations of thin slices of cork (a plant material), which, his microscope revealed, were composed of a honeycomblike array of compartments. He named these structures “cells.”
Three hundred and fifty years later microscopy continues to expose the extraordinary in the mundane, deepening our understanding of the world we live in—sometimes to great aesthetic effect. In the pages that follow,
Scientific American celebrates that marriage of science and art with a selection of images from the 2014 Olympus BioScapes International Digital Imaging Competition. From the Kraken-like armor of a marine plankton dating to 37.6 million years ago to the seemingly machine-tooled gearwheels that power a young plant hopper insect's jumbo jumps, these images affirm that beauty can be found all around us—we have only to look through the right lens.
This article was originally published with the title "Living Large" in Scientific American 312, 1, 52-59 (January 2015)
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