Daily Picture Show

Teeny Tiny Art

While some believe that bigger is better, scientists at the University of Wisconsin think bitty is beautiful. They have assembled a collection of colorful microscopic photos — of cells, molecules and nanoscale structures — to be displayed as art in an exhibition in Wisconsin.

  • A fruit fly embryo is an organizing mass of cells. Made visible and distinct by fluorescent labels, the bands correspond to the developing structures of the future adult fly.
    Hide caption
    A fruit fly embryo is an organizing mass of cells. Made visible and distinct by fluorescent labels, the bands correspond to the developing structures of the future adult fly.
    Jim Langeland, Stephen Paddock/University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • A Forest Of Zinc Oxide Nanorods: Nano-sized structures like these are being studied for potential application in solar cells. An equipment malfunction in an experiment gave these rods a distinctive club shape. This image was captured using a scanning electron microscope.
    Hide caption
    A Forest Of Zinc Oxide Nanorods: Nano-sized structures like these are being studied for potential application in solar cells. An equipment malfunction in an experiment gave these rods a distinctive club shape. This image was captured using a scanning electron microscope.
    Ryan Franking and Robert Hamers/University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • A zebra fish embryo is seen here at the eight-cell stage, about an hour and 15 minutes after fertilization. The zebra fish, an important model for biomedical research, is used, among other things, to explore events in early development.
    Hide caption
    A zebra fish embryo is seen here at the eight-cell stage, about an hour and 15 minutes after fertilization. The zebra fish, an important model for biomedical research, is used, among other things, to explore events in early development.
    Bharti Solanki/University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Worm Bubbles: Hibernating round worms align in water droplets on the lid of a culture plate.
    Hide caption
    Worm Bubbles: Hibernating round worms align in water droplets on the lid of a culture plate.
    Ahna Skop and John Gladden/University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • The male testis of the fruit fly.
    Hide caption
    The male testis of the fruit fly.
    Christiane Wiese, Xuting Sheng, Erika Martunis/University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • This scanning electron microscope image captures distorted mustard plant leaf trichomes, the structures that give leaves their fuzzy feel.
    Hide caption
    This scanning electron microscope image captures distorted mustard plant leaf trichomes, the structures that give leaves their fuzzy feel.
    Brian Downes, Richard Vierstra/University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • The Birthplace Of Fruit Fly Sperm: Male fruit fly sex cells are born here and grow into large cells that subsequently divide to form sperm cells.
    Hide caption
    The Birthplace Of Fruit Fly Sperm: Male fruit fly sex cells are born here and grow into large cells that subsequently divide to form sperm cells.
    Christiane Wiese, Xuting Sheng, Erika Martunis/University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Add water to a thin layer of gel on the surface of an elastic polymer and you get a "polymaze." This image was made with an ordinary light microscope and is not manipulated or artificially colored.
    Hide caption
    Add water to a thin layer of gel on the surface of an elastic polymer and you get a "polymaze." This image was made with an ordinary light microscope and is not manipulated or artificially colored.
    Yejin Eun, Douglas B. Weibel/University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • This structure, known as an imaginal disc, is the developing wing of the African butterfly Bicyclus anynana.
    Hide caption
    This structure, known as an imaginal disc, is the developing wing of the African butterfly Bicyclus anynana.
    Craig Brunetti, Stephen Paddock, Sean Carroll/University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Liquid Crystals: The same material used in computer and television displays can be potentially useful in medical diagnostics. In this image, brightly colored areas correspond to areas in the chemical system where an enzyme has interacted with a lipid.
    Hide caption
    Liquid Crystals: The same material used in computer and television displays can be potentially useful in medical diagnostics. In this image, brightly colored areas correspond to areas in the chemical system where an enzyme has interacted with a lipid.
    Jugal Gupta/University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • A Normal Mouse Fetal Lung: Different colored stains outline airways (green) and smooth muscle (red).
    Hide caption
    A Normal Mouse Fetal Lung: Different colored stains outline airways (green) and smooth muscle (red).
    University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • A cross-section depicts the developing neural tube in a zebra fish embryo, which is in the nascent spinal cord.
    Hide caption
    A cross-section depicts the developing neural tube in a zebra fish embryo, which is in the nascent spinal cord.
    Molly Nyholm, Yevgenya Grinblat/University of Wisconsin-Madison

1 of 12

View slideshow i

For full screen, click on the four-cornered arrow icon in the viewer's bottom right.

Terry Devitt, director of research communications at the University of Wisconsin, says it "seeks to expose the often underappreciated creative and visual nature of the scientific enterprise. Microscopy and other forms of scientific imaging have undergone a revolution in recent decades, and structures that were once hidden have come into full view with the aid of modern technology."

Telescopic images of the cosmos are hugely popular. But the Wisconsin scientists suggest that the tiny structures composing the cosmos deserve a closer look, too — literally. Here's a selection of images from their collection, "Tiny: Art From Microscopes at UW-Madison."

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.