We’ve come a long way from the first glass-and-light optical microscopes. These days, scientists can focus on individual molecules using advanced methods like atomic force microscopy (AFM), where a miniscule probe feels out the details of a surface. And in this AFM image of a nanographene molecule, the resolution is so high that for the first time, we can see the individual bonds between atoms, shown here as green lines.
In a new paper in the journal Science, IBM researchers used the same imaging technique to measure the length and relative strength of individual bonds in the spherical carbon molecules called buckyballs. Their method can not only improve our intimate understanding of these and other molecules—it also lets us get up close and personal with the building blocks of all matter.
Image courtesy of IBM Research – Zurich / Flickr
The many-times-magnified photos of the Nikon Small World photomicrography contest entrance us year after year, with mesmerizing close-ups of nature’s microscopic marvels. Now, in the first Small World in Motion movie competition, we get to see the world’s wee wonders in action. The three winning films and eleven honorable mentions chronicle circulating blood, budding yeast, gestating eggs, and more.
First Place: This time-lapse video, at 10x magnification, traces the path of ink injected into an artery of a three-day-old chick embryo. As the ink spreads through the chick’s vascular system, the branching blood vessels and beating heart become clearly visible.
On the left: A mouse embryo preserved in para-formaldehyde. On the right: A mouse embryo soaked in Scale for two weeks.
What’s the News: The trouble with brains, organs, and tissues in general, from a biologist’s perspective, is that they scatter light like nobody’s business. Shine a light into there to start snapping pictures of cells with your microscope, and bam, all those proteins and macromolecules bounce it around and turn everything to static before you’ve gotten more than a millimeter below the surface. Scientists at RIKEN in Japan, however, have just published a special recipe for a substance that makes tissue as transparent as Jell-O, making unprecedentedly deep imaging possible.