Annie Bananie en Europe

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Tag Archives: beauty

Art in scientific research, part 2

The fact that I use AFM a lot at work is obvious. Some colleagues joke around (or maybe it wasn’t a joke) and say that whenever I’m in the lab, I’m ALWAYS on the AFM, and that was quite true for a period of time. AFM is such a useful scientific technique for my field of research, yet it can get SO DAMN FRUSTRATING sometimes. You might spend half a day calibrating the apparatus and get a weak signal without any useful data on any given day, but when the AFM is in a good mood, you turn it on and BOOM – sweet, sweet data. And data is like food and water in academia – publish or perish, and without data, be ready to perish.

I’m not going to explain the nitty-gritty details about how an AFM (which by the way stands for atomic force microscopy) works and how you can get funky information about the composition, elasticity, roughness, force, etc. of a surface. It is a pretty neat technique that basically allows you to visualize a surface at the nano-scale…i.e. very, very, very small…

…but the point is you get pretty pictures. Maybe not exactly what you expected to see or wanted to get, but it’s art, doubtlessly. Sometimes images containing useful data are actually those that look quite plain and boring, but in the process of acquiring those images, you end up with some unexpected “noise” that is rather…interesting, shall we say. I’ve already shown you some of them in part 1, and since then I’ve gotten many more scans that are worthy of being in my “scientific art” collection. Let’s see whether your interpretation of the following images agrees with mine 😉

This is really one of my favourites – a nano-turtle (left)! Well, zoom out a bit and you can actually see a family of turtles (right) – the father, the mother, and the son 🙂 Indeed I have some friends who are crazy about turtles and they would be happy to know that turtles are taking over the world…even the microscopic world of nanotechnology!

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Art in scientific research

Sometimes I rather wonder whether I am doing scientific research or creating abstract art. When AFM (atomic force microscopy) or fluorescence imaging doesn’t turn out the way you expect it to, then the results may very well be suitable as a display of art, I kid you not. Just take a look…

While some friends have mistaken these as images of cells, they are actually AFM images of protein structures on a surface. One friend has commented that they looked like leopard print, while another (who was probably hungry) thought that they reminded her of a spicy hot pot soup. Seems like the images were at least successful in provoking vast imagination 😀

You could say this is a simple wild flower, or maybe a gorgeous supernova. But how about a bursting dragon fruit (or pitaya) or a bunch of coriander, as suggested by my creative friends? Kudos to the food-oriented minds 😉

These images are actually from experiments that were semi-successfully, but they will nonetheless never be published. My dad jokingly said that we could enlarge one of them, print it out and hang it in our living room. Or well, I THINK he was joking… 😛

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