Butterfly scales | Jo Angell Design

Coloured Scanning Electron Micrograph (SEM) of scales from the wing of a peacock butterfly, Inachis io. These scales have an intricate design and overlap like the tiles on the roof of a building. They allow heat and light to enter, and also insulate the insect. They may also be highly coloured. The metallic appearance of the scales is due to ridges along their length. 

6 Amazing Videos From The Olympus Microscopy Competition

“Every year, the Olympus BioScapes competition celebrates achievements in light microscopy and the scientific insights they provide. Scientists from around the world submit their photos and videos, and a team of PhD-toting judges pick their favorites. The entrants are judged “based on the science they depict, their beauty or impact, and the technical expertise involved in capturing them.” And this year’s winners have just been announced!”

See some winning videos at popsci.


Here’s some stunning video of your immune cells doing their thing. 

Every so often, your body’s own cells become dangerous to you. When that happens, cytotoxic T cells (also known as T killer cells) are your immune system’s way of dealing with the threat. 

More often than not, they succeed in vanquishing cells that have become infected with viruses or mutated to the point of becoming cancerous before they can cause further trouble. 

To accomplish this, they’re armed with a battery of chemical weapons and enzymes that they can use to cause target cells to burst open in the event known as lysis. 

Examine the image captions for some more information on what you’re looking at in each one. 

I produced these gifs from some of the latest microscope footage to come out of the National Institutes of Health. Check out the source of this post for some more detailed information and video. It’s pretty amazing how small these things are; ten of them could fit end-to-end across the tip of a human hair. 


A tardigrade (waterbear) hatching. 

Tardigrades reproduce sexually and females lay eggs. She’ll actually shed her skin first and then lay her eggs inside of it. The babies then hatch from their eggs and then have to crawl out of the skin husk. Fun fact: tardigrades are born with the same number of cells as their adult counterparts - their cells just get bigger as they age. 


With all the hype surrounding the untapped abounding resources of cannabis - medicinally, agriculturally, or otherwise undetermined knowns as of yet - the pictures above provide you with a glimpse into the beauty of the plant, unfettered from government or political divides or opinion.

Sativa and Indica strains of cannabis get their close up through a scanning electron microscope in Ford McCann’s book “Cannabis Under The Microscope: A Visual Exploration of Medicinal Sativa and C. Indica.

Source reference: LeafScience

Want more SEM photography? Wander over to Rose-Lynn Fisher’s site and indulge in her gorgeous book’s ‘BEE’ and ‘The Topography of Tears’


The world looks better through a scientific lens. According to the 2014 Wellcome Image Awards winners, anyway. Here’s my favorites:

  • At top we see the cross-section of a lily flower bud by Spike Walker, perfectly illustrating the ordered anatomy of a bloom, from eggy ovules to spermy stamens to beautifully bundled petals and sepals.
  • Next, we see a pair of wee monsters, an electron micrograph image of a louse embedded on a human hair, by Kevin Mackenzie, and a zebrafish embryo, all eyes on you, by Annie Cavanagh and David McCarthy.
  • Next we see the false-colored silver oxide flowers that “grow” from stems of calcium carbonate after agricultural sludge is burned at high temperatures, from Eberhart Kernahan. Next to that is a rather painful-looking kidney stone that could be mistaken for an alien moon, by Kevin Mackenzie.
  • Finally, an x-ray of a bat, by Chris Thorn, reminding us that the wings of those much-maligned mammals are just really big webby hands.

Check out the full winners’ gallery here.


Pepto-Bismol Lakes

These are not the product of photoshopping, pharmaceutical chemical run-off or man made dyes. These are naturally occurring lakes.

Lake Hillier in Western Australia is teeming with salmon pink water.

Likewise, Lake Retba in Senegal is so milkshake pink that its water looks good enough to drink.

To find out why these bodies of water look so bubblegummy, researchers from the University of Bath (for real, no watery pun intended) in the UK examined pink lake H20 under their microscopes and found that:

The lakes are saltier than the sea

Almost ten times saltier than the regular ocean in fact. This high salinity (up to 40% salt in solution) makes the lake just like the Dead Sea where swimmers are so buoyant that they float around due to its high density compared to their body mass.

The lakes are full of algae and bacteria

Samples of the H20 when examined under the microscope reveal large quantities of the salt loving micro-algae Dunaliella salina and halophilic bacteria. The law of osmosis tells us that water moves from regions of high concentration to regions of low concentration in the presence of a semi-permeable membrane. Most cellular organism therefore would shrivel up and die when placed in the high saline environment of these lakes because all of their water would move out of their cells into the surrounding lake across their semi-permeable plasma membranes by osmosis. D. salina, however, can survive in these conditions. It does so by synthesizing large volumes of glycerol in the cytoplasm of its cells to counter-balance the effects of osmosis resulting in no net move of water across its membranes (Oren, 2005). This makes them highly suited to life in a salty lake but it doesn’t explain the pink hue to the lake.

The algae and bacteria make carotenoids

D. salina has been known to medicine for a long time. The algae was of interest to scientists who wondered how these organisms could survive and thrive in salt flats that have dried out due to water evaporation during periods of extreme heat and sunlight exposure. They do so because they can tolerate the high levels of solar radiation by synthesizing large amounts of β-carotene, an antioxidant that protects cells from damage and is used to produce Vitamin A - both of which are substances now used in cosmetics, skin care products and sunscreens. Sweet potatoes and carrots are also rich in β-carotene which gives them their distinctive pink/orange colors. A color similar to the carotenes produced by the microorganisms in the lakes and therefore contributing to their unique pinkness (Oren, 2001).

Pink lakes, an amazing natural mystery with a simple microscopical solution (also a great vacation spot for Barbie).



1. Oren A. “A century years of Dunaliella research: 1905-2005.” Saline Systems, 2005.

2. Oren A. and Rodriguez-Valera F. “The contribution of halophilic Bacteria to the red coloration of saltern crystallizer ponds.” FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 2001.

Awesome shot of a healing wound 

Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of a healing wound on the skin. There are red blood cells (erythrocytes) on the skin’s surface.

Keratinocytes (skin cells that contain the protein keratin, centre) are forming a hard protective layer (scab) over the wound.

Magnification x400, by Steve Gschmeissner

text source 


Castle On A Grain Of Sand

Artist Vik Muniz and artist/researcher Marcelo Coelho collaborate to place a drawing onto a single piece of sand, less than a single millimeter wide, and took four years to complete - video embedded below:

After four years of experimentation, Photographer Vik Muniz and designer Marcelo Coelho successfully created microscopic drawings of castles on single grains of sand. Take an in-depth look into the advanced and archaic processes and inspirations behind these revolutionary micro-masterpieces.

You can find out more at the Creators Project here

lymph vessels

nobody seems to care much about these guys, yet your arm would swell up without them — there’s just enough net fluid leak from capillaries to cause problems in the absence of another set of pipes to return that transudate to the circulatory system

let’s have a little respect for lymphatics

colored SEM, 27x

credit: Susumu Nishinaga


The plumbing of plants.

Vascular plants (including flowering plants and trees) use specialized vessels to transport water and dissolved substances to and from every leaf, flower and root. Pictured here are a series of astounding stained microscope slides depicting cross-sections of plant stems; the darker lines are the walls of vertical, hollow columns in which water makes its journey around plants thereby allowing chemical reactions and life itself to take place. 

Microscopy and photography by Eckhard Völcker; definitely worth a visit.

Zebrafish embryo

Just 22 hours after fertilization, this zebrafish embryo is already taking shape. By 36 hours, all of the major organs will have started to form. The zebrafish’s rapid growth and see-through embryo make it ideal for scientists studying how organs develop.

Image courtesy of Philipp Keller, Bill Lemon, Yinan Wan and Kristin Branson, Janelia Farm Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, Va. Part of the exhibit Life:Magnified by ASCB and NIGMS.