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Spectacular Microscopic Art Is Also World-Changing Science

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Fernan Federici’s microscopic images of plants, bacteria, and crystals are a classic example of finding art in unexpected places.

A couple years ago, Federici was working on his Ph.D. in biological sciences at Cambridge University studying self-organization, the process by which things organize themselves spontaneously and without direction. Like a flock of birds flying together.

More specifically, he was using microscopes and a process called fluorescence microscopy to see if he could identify these kinds of patterns on a cellular level. In fluorescence microscopy, scientists shine a particular kind of light at whatever they’re trying to illuminate and then that substance identifies itself by shining a different color or light back. Sometimes researchers will also attach proteins that they know emit a particular kind of light to substances as a kind of identifier. In the non-microscopic world, it’s like using a black light on a stoner poster.

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