April 20, 2012 - Electron Microscope Demo

The surface
of a kidney stone.
(THAT'S gotta hurt!)

– 1940

What's 10 feet high and weighs half a ton – but was used with the most delicate, tiny organisms ever?

The first American electron microscope!

Dr. Vladimir Zworykin, the Russian-American inventor who gets much of the credit for inventing television, built America's first electron microscope, and he demonstrated it for the first time on this date in 1940. The huge microscope produced magnification of 100,000 times.

The electron microscope was first conceived of—and patented—by Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard, and the first to be built was created by two Germans, Max Knoll and Ernst Ruska, in 1931. (You may know that 1931 was not a good year to be German—the worldwide stock market crash had hit Germany particularly hard, and Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party were seizing control of the country at that time!)

Ordinary microscopes use visible light and glass lenses to create magnified images of things, whereas an electron microscope uses a beam of electrons and electrostatic or electromagnetic “lenses” instead. We can get much more magnification and image resolution because electrons have wavelengths that are about 100,000 times shorter than the wavelengths of visible light. These days a good electron microscope can show magnifications up to 10,000,000x—and an ordinary microscope only reaches magnifications of 2,000x.

Wow! What a difference!

Enjoy Electron Microscopic Images!

Check out the up-close (way up-close!) images of scorpions, spiders and sharks on Wired Science

The eye of a fly
Here are some images as varied as a wounded blood vessel, salt and pepper, and eyelash hairs. 

There are more and more beautiful and horrifying and interesting electron microscopic images here and here and here and hereThere's some repetition within these links—but every website has some unique images, too—and they are all pretty amazing!
A mite--

If you haven't already, check out the Virtual Electron Microscope

Also on this date:

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