Portfolio: The nature detectives


Imagine standing on the surface of the Moon, staring back at Earth and having in your grasp a device that allows you to see a tennis ball.

Doesn't seem likely, does it? But that's how powerful are the electron microscopes that have produced images such as these, used by researchers to view the tiniest organisms and even the atoms and molecules that compose them as they explore the very mechanisms of life.

FEI, a manufacturer of these high-performance 'scopes, has for the past four years run a competition to celebrate the images captured of the discoveries made, and the best will be used to promote Mysteries of the Unseen World, a National Geographic film that will give the teeny-weeny a giant presence.

Without looking at the caption, top right, see if you can work out which is which of the images here: one is of the structural spicules that make up marine sponges; a second is a butterfly wing; a third the egg of a mosquito responsible for transmitting tropical diseases such as dengue fever; and the last (easy one, this) is an aphid that has become a serious pest affecting commercial poplar.

'Invisible Worlds' will be screened next year. For more information: nationalgeographic.com/movies. For more on FEI: bit.ly/UbvtZB