|The Red Planet?|
The adventure of NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover took an exciting step forward today as the pioneering little machine vaporised its first rock with its cheerfully named 'ChemCam' laser. The Curiosity mission has tapped into a huge vein of public enthusiasm for investigation and the exploration of the unknown, exemplified by the fact that over a thousand people gathered in New York's Times Square to watch the live landing. Space exploration has often occupied a romantic place in the heart of public opinion, in part because of the wonderful images that can be beamed back, which can offer a more personal connection to the work being done and give people a greater sense of ownership over scientific endeavour. The Curiosity mission is no exception - NASA is dutifully publishing the images being sent back from Mars to the delight of those of us on Earth.
The potential for images to capture the public imagination has not gone unnoticed by other branches of science. Last year I published a post about the Cell Picture Show, a project by the biology journal Cell to highlight the most striking images emerging from the ever expanding field of biological microscopy. In this post I wanted to highlight a recent edition to the project: the super-resolution gallery.
Super-resoltion is a fairly recent step forward in microscopy that allows biologists to observe life's molecular events on an unprecedentedly small scale using a range of cunning technical tricks. Researchers can now follow individual molecules as they move across the surface of a cell, or observe the machinery of processes like DNA replication in fine detail. Just like Curiosity, the missions of super-resolution are pushing back the frontiers of knowledge and exploring the unknown; not going further, but looking smaller. I would definitely recommend giving this new gallery a look: here.
Image is property of Cell and National Institute of Health - microtubules imaged by conventional (right) and super-resolution (left) microscopy within a Drosophila cell.