The microscopic world of corals [video]


Just a quick note: confocal laser scanning microscopes are not new. The first was made in 1955, and they’ve been in regular use in various types of labs for decades. While these videos and images are spectacular (and they really are beautiful), I’m not personally convinced that many of them couldn’t have been made with standard widefield fluorescence microscopes.

I was thinking just this. I remember non-laser confocal microscopy, with an electric motor spinning an aperture plate. I suspect the real change has been in the digital detectors, which bring ability to capture images at decent rates for survivable illumination levels. The picture of a shrimpy-thing, for example, looked like it was as many pixels deep as it was wide, which made it about a billion colour voxels. We could have captured the detail on sheets of 4x5 Polaroid film, but I doubt we could have got enough, or got it fast enough.

It would have been neater if they had explained how the microscope worked, instead of repeating the magical name, like a mantra. It’s quite understandable. I know how they worked, but I was looking forward to a nice animated explanation, the way you might want to watch a good performance of a piece of music you already know. Wikipaedia has an explanation but it is a bit dry, looks a bit more promising, but my Java seems to have packed up, ho-hum…

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