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World's Most Powerful Optical Microscope

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the i-can-see-my-neutron-from-here dept.

United Kingdom 163

gamricstone writes "Scientists have produced the world's most powerful optical microscope, which could help understand the causes of many viruses and diseases. Previously, the standard optical microscope could only see items around one micrometre — 0.001 millimetres — clearly. But now, by combining an optical microscope with a transparent microsphere, dubbed the 'microsphere nanoscope,' the Manchester researchers can see 20 times smaller — 50 nanometres ((5 x 10-8m) — under normal lights. This is beyond the theoretical limit of optical microscopy. 'Seeing inside a cell directly without [it] dying and seeing living viruses directly could revolutionize the way cells are studied and allow us to examine closely viruses and biomedicine for the first time.'"

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Extraordinary claims (-1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359220)

"This is beyond the theoretical limit of optical microscopy."
So either the scientists are lying, or the theory is wrong. Which is it? Pons? Fleischmann? Anyone?

Idiot (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35359386)

Maybe you could, oh I don't know, read the article? Just first posting some dumb question that can easily be answered by taking a second to READ does not make you seem insightful. Of course, it wouldn't take a genius to figure it out without even reading. This new technique is beyond the theoretical limits of standard optical microscopy because it doesn't freaking USE standard optical microscopy. Uh dur.

The new nano-imaging system is based on capturing optical, near-field virtual images, which are free from optical diffraction, and amplifying them using a microsphere, a tiny spherical particle which is further relayed and amplified by a standard optical microscope.

Professor Li, who initiated and led the research in collaboration with academics at the National University and Data Storage Institute of Singapore, believes their research could prove to be an important development.

He said: "This is a world record in terms of how small an optical microscope can go by direct imaging under a light source covering the whole range of optical spectrum.

"Not only have we been able to see items of 50 nanometres, we believe that is just the start and we will be able to see far smaller items.

"Theoretically, there is no limit on how small an object we will be able to see.

However, even with no limits, these scientists would be hard pressed to image your brain.

Re:Idiot (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35360416)

"Theoretically, there is no limit on how small an object we will be able to see."

I think Planck would like to have a word with him.

Re:Extraordinary claims (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359596)

"50 nm ought to be enough for anybody."

Re:Extraordinary claims (2)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359622)

Option c: the snippet extracted doesn't tell the whole story.

Specifically, the reason this is "beyond the theoretical limit" is because they

have created a microscope which [beats] the diffraction limit of light ... by combining an optical microscope with a transparent microsphere

Re:Extraordinary claims (4, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359630)

This is beyond the theoretical limit of optical microscopy." So either the scientists are lying, or the theory is wrong. Which is it? Pons? Fleischmann? Anyone?

The dumbed down version (the only one I understand): light has a "size" of about 200 nanometers, and you wouldn't expect to see detail smaller than that using light. Recently though, people have found a way around that.

This actually isn't the first microscope to break that barrier. There's OMX [medgadget.com] for one.

Re:Extraordinary claims (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35360498)

This is not really an extraordinary claim. I once had a debate with a devout disciple of science who claimed that world was governed by science and that all creationist were retarded. He knew this because scientist could SEE electrons orbiting the atoms and stuff. Apparently scientist eyeballs work a lot better than creationists eyeballs, which can only see down to the wavelength of the light they are using to see with. Scientist eyeball can see all the way down to the size of an electron using nothing more that visible light. Now I understand why people mock creationist all the time. It is because they have such bad eyesight.

Re:Extraordinary claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35359758)

From TFA:
"This is beyond the theoretical limit of optical microscopy."
"Theoretically, there is no limit on how small an object we will be able to see."

It contradicts itself.

Re:Extraordinary claims (5, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359918)

"This is beyond the theoretical limit of optical microscopy."

So either the scientists are lying, or the theory is wrong. Which is it? Pons? Fleischmann? Anyone?

Its journalist BS. Doesn't mean a hell of a lot. When does journalist BS mean anything?

Way back in 1874 Abbe figured out the theoretical limit of microscope resolution. Far field resolution with positive refractive index materials, that is. Thats all we had back then. Kind of like how the romans probably could have made silicon diodes, if only they had purer silicon...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Abbe [wikipedia.org]

Abbe figured the resolution only depends on the wavelength of the light being viewed and the NA of the lense (numerical aperture)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numerical_Aperture [wikipedia.org]

Its kind of like those theoretical thermodynamic limits. Not that its easy to even come close, but conventional physics says this is as far as you could dream of going...

For decades (centuries, really) they fooled with stranger and shorter light wavelengths, and continually optimized the material science of their lenses to get better NAs. Unfortunately they optimized themselves into quite a tight little local minimum. Recently they came up with some pretty far out material science. Also some pretty weird electromagnetics, trying to use nearfield instead of a farfield system.

They "broke all the rules", in journalist speak, much like a music band or a car body designer breaks all the rules, but that doesn't mean they can levitate or glow in the dark or something, it just means they tried something pretty far out. Unlike the car designers and musicians, the result of this foolishness is actually pretty cool and useful.

You could accurately compare near and far field work like conventional vs quantum mechanics in that a lot of what you "expect" from one, does not work in the other.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evanescent_wave [wikipedia.org]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superlens [wikipedia.org]

Pretty much useless theoretical foolishness for a traditional microscope, right? Well it turns out by some trickery you can apply that kind of stuff after all.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_resolution_microscopy [wikipedia.org]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_internal_reflection_fluorescence_microscope [wikipedia.org]

This article is not about a totally new area of science or something, just one particularly well done demonstration / experiment. Its some cool applied engineering, not new theoretical science. And I believe my little /. post is probably better and more informative than any mainstream media story will be about this topic.

Re:Extraordinary claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35360372)

It was an informative post... try a little less of tooting your own horn at the end there though.

Re:Extraordinary claims (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 3 years ago | (#35361816)

Horn tooting is well deserved.

"Seeing a cell directly without dying" (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35359222)

I didn't know microscopy was such a dangerous line of work...

Re:"Seeing a cell directly without dying" (0)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359330)

Cell is incredibly dangerous. He's already absorbed 17 and 18 and achieved his ultimate form.

Re:"Seeing a cell directly without dying" (1)

MikeDirnt69 (1105185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359466)

If I had mod point's I would +1 Sayadjin you right now.

Re:"Seeing a cell directly without dying" (1)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359460)

It's about as dangerous as being jailed, it seems.

Re:"Seeing a cell directly without dying" (2)

elsurexiste (1758620) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359824)

For those who don't have English as their mother tongue, "dying" refers to the use of a tincture, not to a destructive process for the cell. Inb4 people wondering what the hell are we talking about.

Re:"Seeing a cell directly without dying" (2)

Ptolemarch (11506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359996)

I'm pretty sure the participle of dye [wiktionary.org] is dyeing [wiktionary.org] , actually.

Re:"Seeing a cell directly without dying" (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360122)

Isn't that dyeing? [websters-o...ionary.org]

Re:"Seeing a cell directly without dying" (2)

Zorpheus (857617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360302)

No, it's about killing the cell, since a cell does not survive an electron microscope, and it's probably no possible to see a living cell with a scanning near-field microscope or an atomic fore microscope. For a scanning tunneling microscope it would have to be covered with a conducting layer,so that one is out too.

Re:"Seeing a cell directly without dying" (1)

Zorpheus (857617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360320)

I think that scanning tunneling microscope does not make sense. Bah no edit

Re:"Seeing a cell directly without dying" (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360334)

Although some of the dyes used do kill cells - including all of those required for viewing with electron microscopes.

Re:"Seeing a cell directly without dying" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35361748)

And don't forget red M&Ms.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M&M%27s#1970s_and_1980s

Re:"Seeing a cell directly without dying" (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360620)

Alright, alright! I know the dye/die joke was lame, but taking it seriously only hurts my feelings.

Re:"Seeing a cell directly without dying" (3, Insightful)

Inzkeeper (767071) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360008)

"Among other tiny objects the scientists will be able to examine are anodized aluminum oxide nano-structures, and nano-patterns on Blue-Ray CVC disks, not previously visible with an optical microscope."

Hmmm... Sounds like a DMCA violation to me.

Re:"Seeing a cell directly without dying" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35360878)

I'd show you my mitochondria, but then I'd have to kill you.

50 nanometres ((5 x 10-8m) ???? (3, Funny)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359232)

What the hell? Don't you guys know the IEEE standard scientific notation for writing numbers with a characteristic and a mantissa? 5.0e-08 m

Re: 50 nanometres ((5 x 10-8m) ???? (1)

C_amiga_fan (1960858) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359308)

I prefer engineering notation (indices of 3,6,9):
50e-09 m

BTW why does it matter if they wrote 50 nanometers?

Re: 50 nanometres ((5 x 10-8m) ???? (3, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359584)

I prefer engineering notation (indices of 3,6,9): 50e-09 m

BTW why does it matter if they wrote 50 nanometers?

I think the GP is largely complaining that they left off the 'e' in front of the exponent. Perhaps '-8' was written in superscript and somehow that formatting was lost. "5 x" is atypical but "10-8m" is wrong.

You are correct that engineering notation would have made more sense, reminding readers what a nanometer is.

Re: 50 nanometres ((5 x 10-8m) ???? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35359612)

You're an idiot. No-one uses this notation in science.

Re: 50 nanometres ((5 x 10-8m) ???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35359830)

You're an idiot. No-one uses this notation in science.

I'm surprised a genius such as yourself failed to realize that the original text probably had "-8" formatted as a superscript and that the formatting was lost during a cut-and-paste. For example lets cut-and-paste from wikipedia's scientific notation page:
0.0000000061 6.1x10-9
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_notation [wikipedia.org]

Re: 50 nanometres ((5 x 10-8m) ???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35359638)

I would have stuck with just nanometers. If you don't know what a nanometer is you probably don't care about a microscope.

Re: 50 nanometres ((5 x 10-8m) ???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35359652)

Mod parent down. Nobody uses that notation outside of computer engineering.

Re: 50 nanometres ((5 x 10-8m) ???? (1)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360054)

I think what he was complaining about is that 50 nanometres is not the same as 10 metres (5 x 10-8). Copy-and-paste didn't preserve the superscript.

It's 42 (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360486)

50 nanometres is not the same as 10 metres (5 x 10-8)

According the precedence rules, you should do the multiplication before the subtraction, so 5 x 10 - 8 = 42.

Re: 50 nanometres ((5 x 10-8m) ???? (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359752)

We cell biologists aren't very good with math, no. I know nano is smaller than micro. So nano is helpful while scientific notation would just anger and scare me.

Re: 50 nanometres ((5 x 10-8m) ???? (1)

shiftless (410350) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359836)

Your signature is oddly appropriate here.

The "b eyond the theoretical limits" thing (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359266)

That confused me.

So is the theory wrong, is the article wrong (yes, I did RTFA), or did they find some clever workaround?

Also, at 50nm, would quantum effects be noticeable? That is, uncertainty?

Re:The "b eyond the theoretical limits" thing (-1, Offtopic)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359438)

I have no faith in humanity. If God came down every decade to wander through churches and change water into wine, 80% of the population would attribute it to government dickery or space aliens, or become satanists just to stick it to "The Man (upstairs)." We would still have a lot of new agers talking about how God is Math or Ogma being a dick and frightening people with occasional appearances, even though the lack of a four-faced mask would quickly rule out Math and of course Ogma is never likely to leave his damned library. The other 20% would quickly assume it MUST be God because that's the only explanation for what you can see, rather than some other being that happens to be powerful and shiny just being a jackass, like that bitch that pissed Picard off.

Re:The "b eyond the theoretical limits" thing (1)

uniquename72 (1169497) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360896)

Where in all these fictional people are the 80% of us who just don't give a shit?

Re:The "b eyond the theoretical limits" thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35359464)

Maybe, maybe not...

Re:The "b eyond the theoretical limits" thing (3, Interesting)

avandesande (143899) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359480)

No, the theory is correct, but they aren't doing a direct observation... they are covering the target with little spheres that are in direct contact and then observing the light that comes out of the little spheres- no rules about our understanding of diffraction limits are broken.

Re:The "b eyond the theoretical limits" thing (1)

FunkyELF (609131) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359632)

No, the theory is correct, but they aren't doing a direct observation... they are covering the target with little spheres that are in direct contact and then observing the light that comes out of the little spheres- no rules about our understanding of diffraction limits are broken.

I don't really understand this.
If those little spheres are acting as lenses then how is it not a direct observation?

Re:The "b eyond the theoretical limits" thing (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35360520)

You're directly observing the spheres, which are directly observing the cells. Therefore you are indirectly observing the cells.

Re:The "b eyond the theoretical limits" thing (2)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360792)

If those little spheres are acting as lenses then how is it not a direct observation?

You can recover information that is usually lost in far field observation by putting something (like these spheres) very close to the source that turns those evanescent waves [wikipedia.org] into propagating waves you can observe in the far field.

Re:The "b eyond the theoretical limits" thing (2)

TooManyNames (711346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359538)

I was confused as well. I think, though, that the "beyond the theoretical limits" statement applies to typical microscopes which use an aperture for visible wavelengths (which would restrict viewing to objects far larger than 50nm). Somehow, this transparent microsphere that they use is a different structure that gets around the restrictions of a typical aperture, though I don't know how. So to answer your question more concisely, the theory isn't really wrong, instead they found a clever workaround (to which the theory doesn't really apply).

Re:The "b eyond the theoretical limits" thing (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359782)

Even better:

The new method has no theoretical limit in the size of feature that can be seen.
[Professor Li said] "Theoretically, there is no limit on how small an object we will be able to see."

So, below the Plank scale then? Indeed, below the wavelength of the light used by the microscope?

Re:The "b eyond the theoretical limits" thing (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35360030)

They're already smaller than the wavelength of light used by the microscope. Resolution at 50nm, Wavelength is 200nm.

Re:The "b eyond the theoretical limits" thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35360034)

Direct quote from Professor Li:

The 'microsphere nanoscope' does have physical limits dependent on the abundance of photons. But we still hope to be able to see my genitalia in the near future.

Re:The "b eyond the theoretical limits" thing (4, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359898)

So is the theory wrong, is the article wrong (yes, I did RTFA), or did they find some clever workaround?

This is one of several clever workarounds [wikipedia.org] . The article lacks details, I'm guessing it's because the concept is pretty complex. I only half understand the structured illumination method mentioned in that wiki article and I think that's probably a simpler concept.

Good news for microlithography folks... (2)

ak_hepcat (468765) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359284)

This will help make de-fabbing chips much easier, as they'll be able to directly read the circuits on smaller die.

I, for one, can't wait for something like this to make it to the home market.

"Timmy, here's why your nose is runny! See? A rhinovirus! Here, let's take a picture and forward it to your teacher."

Re:Good news for microlithography folks... (0)

Mr. McGibby (41471) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359360)

Yes, because I'm sure that it'll be priced for home market really soon.

Re:Good news for microlithography folks... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35361404)

Yeah, why would anyone bother miniaturizing expensive research equipment, like computers, radio transceivers, cathode ray tubes, plasma phosphor grids, internal combustion engines or refrigeration coils, just so people could have them at home? That's just silly.

Re:Good news for microlithography folks... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359958)

"Timmy, here's why your nose is runny! See? A rhinovirus! Here, let's take a picture and forward it to your teacher."

One of the currently available super-resolution microscopes, the OMX, is running at 1.2 million dollars. [iu.edu]

Anyway, for a virus, you'd really want to use EM, and I've heard of some "cheap" SEMs available for around $400.

Re:Good news for microlithography folks... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35360162)

Actually, its the reverse. They took a microlithography technique and applied it to imaging.

Re:Good news for microlithography folks... (2)

Jaqenn (996058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35361218)

There's a TED talk about this concept that you ought to watch. http://www.ted.com/talks/joe_derisi_hunts_the_next_killer_virus.html [ted.com]

I'm butchering his words, but it's something like they make a wafer with millions of slots shaped like every virus they've ever seen, and you spread infected fluid on the chip and the area with slots that shape turns a different color.

Skip to about 10:00 mark for a relation of them using it to diagnose a viral infection that had never been documented before.

Talk about dangerous (2)

Nibbler(C) (574581) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359290)

'Seeing inside a cell directly without dying' I'd call that a huge advance, it seems cell biology used to be right up there with kamikaze-piloting for a profession.

20 times smaller (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35359350)

20 times smaller? What the fuck does that mean?

Oh! I think you mean 1/20 the size.

Stupid journalist. "Me fail English? That's unpossible!" Although, I suppose with the rampant "times smaller" and "times less" abuse, it has become perfectly cromulent over time.

Re:20 times smaller (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359518)

Actually, it would seem you fail English via trying to apply mathematical rules to it.

The phrases 'times less than', 'times smaller', 'times fewer' have been in use in the English language for hundreds of years. Swift, Newton, Herschel, Boyle, and Locke all used those phrases at one point or another in their works. Now, generally speaking an argument from authority is not a good argument, but when you're talking about language which is by definition defined by the way it's used I think it is a sound one here. Those examples of usage are from hundreds of years ago, by some of the most educated, intelligent people of their times, I think it is safe to say the phrases were in standard usage then as they are now.

Obviously you can argue that logically or mathematically the phrasing doesn't make sense. The thing about language is that is is neither mathematical nor logical.

Re:20 times smaller (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35359738)

the GP was just someone karma whoring by trying to be pedantic which, unfortunately, is rewarded too many times here on Slashdot.

Now, considering that he's an AC and doesn't benefit from karma, I guess that makes him a Karma Slut and not a whore - he's not being compensated for it.

Re:20 times smaller (3, Informative)

N0Man74 (1620447) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359886)

Lately, I've been hearing complaints about the usage of "times less" pop up quite a few times around here.

First of all, it's a common idiom. Idioms aren't always used in a way that some might find to be mathematically consistant. A bird in the hand is not the mathematical equivalent of two in the bush.

Also, this idiom is actually mathematically consistent in that it clearly suggests a multiplicative inverse (or reciprocal).

Finally, this is a very old usage. It has been documented to have existed for three centuries years. This doesn't mean that the journalist is stupid, unless you also would consider a writer such as Jonathan Swift to be stupid.

seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35359358)

What the h*ll is the "cause of a virus"?

Re:seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35359496)

... and how can you see "living viruses"?
(I'm not even going to correct the grammar.)

So intercellular activity can be recorded? (4, Interesting)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359382)

Gee thanks, after all those thousands of cpu-hours my machines spent simulating proteins interacting, they can apparently now just look at the damn thing and record the results. Damn you, progress...

Re:So intercellular activity can be recorded? (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360780)

Gee thanks, after all those thousands of cpu-hours my machines spent simulating proteins interacting, they can apparently now just look at the damn thing and record the results.

Yeah. I, too, was rather dissapointed when videos replaced ascii porn.

Re:So intercellular activity can be recorded? (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#35361300)

Shoulda gone with SETI instead! :P

peek-a-boo, I can see you (0)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359408)

peek-a-boo!
I can see you
and I know what you do
so put your hands on your face
and cover up your eyes
don't look until i signal
peek-a-boo! peek-a-boo! peek-a-boo!
the way that we weren't is
what we'll become
so please pay attention
while i show you some
of what's about to happen
peek-a-boo!
I know what you do
cause I do it too
laugh if you want to or
say you don't care
if you cannot see it you
think it's not there
it doesn't work that way

mother's baw knows it too
didn't he so do?

Re:peek-a-boo, I can see you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35359522)

You are freaking me out, Sir!

This is amazing! (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359500)

I hope they can also reverse the technique and use it for lithography.

Re:This is amazing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35359684)

Why? Smaller books?

Re:This is amazing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35360090)

Lithography is the method used for making microprocessors.

Re:This is amazing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35359940)

They already are... in fact that is where the idea came from, they just reversed it.

Re:This is amazing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35360722)

It's already been done, but is impractical in practice...

http://www.optics.rochester.edu/workgroups/novotny/lithography.html

Glass spheres (1)

Script Cat (832717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359554)

The microscopic glass spheres are dropped onto the sample. Then look at the glass spheres with the microscope. A glass sphere acts as a lens and you can focus on the image in it.

Like little magnifying lenses
--
Like putting too much air in a balloon

everything old is new again (0)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359618)

really, we're back to Rife [wikipedia.org] again?!!!
Next somebody will rediscover the t-bacilli that cause cancer.
And that the Deros live underground, shooting deadly DOR at surface dwellers to give them nightemenmares.

meh. I guess with the sad state of educmacation in this country, we'll see a lot more of these kind of whackjob claims.

Re:everything old is new again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35359772)

Demonstrate how this microscope is a "whackjob claim" (superficial resemblance to something from the past does not count). If you don't, then you're screaming at the top of your lungs an unconditional confession that you don't know what you're talking about.

plus, everybody knows that Deros are real (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360018)

At best that blurb on Science Daily is vague to the point of uselessness.
More likely, the "journalist" is illiterate.

Lethal microscopes (4, Funny)

Zouden (232738) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359690)

Seeing inside a cell directly without dying .. could revolutionize the way cells are studied

I work in a biology lab, and looking directly into a cell is one of my most dangerous tasks. Lesser men have been struck dead by viewing the horrors that lurk beneath the cell membrane. A microscope that lets us look inside a cell without dying would revolutionise biology forever!

Pictures or it didn't happen. (0)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359800)

Pictures or it didn't happen.

How to get the article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35359854)

any access to the pdf?

Look at the size of my e-penis (1)

ELCouz (1338259) | more than 3 years ago | (#35359894)

oh wait....

Re:Look at the size of my e-penis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35360670)

it goes all the way from a to z

Should be "light microscope", not "optical" (2)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360252)

I built and used scanning electron microscopes back in my distant youth. We always referred to microscopes as "light" or "electron" or even "ion" (yes, we built a prototype ion microscope). All of these have optics in the form of lenses and apertures and could correctly be called optical microscopes.

Re:Should be "light microscope", not "optical" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35360698)

Optical/light in optical/light microscope refers to the source. Therefore a scanning ELECTRON microscope is an electron microscope.

theoretical limit (3, Informative)

u19925 (613350) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360306)

The summary says, "This is beyond the theoretical limit of optical microscopy". Which theoretical limit? The only theoretical limit that I know is diffraction limit (angular resolution is about wavelength/lens_diameter or lambda/D). But that only applies for objects far off (distance much larger than D^2/lambda. so it is quite accurate for telescopes). There is no direct theoretical limit for microscopes. The semiconductor manufacturing uses near field photolithography for ages where they routinely create features smaller than the diffraction limit.

Re:theoretical limit (1)

cr42yr1ch (1764012) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360590)

Microscopes are directly limited by diffraction. And near field generally means lambda distances. A normal microscope objective lens is far further away from the sample than this!

Re:theoretical limit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35360980)

DISCLAIMER: no laws of physics are broken during the course of their measurement. However, it is cool that the conventional resolution of 300nm that most microscopists are familiar with is reduced to 50nm. But nobody every said that would be impossible. In fact, Near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM), has been able to resolve 50nm structures using fiber tips for decades. The difference with this new method and NSOM is that they use a microsphere in their near-field measurement instead of a tip connected to a fiber-optic cable to contact the measured surface. Thus, they are in the "far-field" with their microscope, although their microsphere sphere still has to get close and be in the near-field. I would contrast this with STED microscopy, which also gets down to 50nm or so in the far field without the need for any near-field probes! The only drawback of STED is that it is complicated and only works for fluorophores. I dislike STORM (also gets 50nm resolution), since they are just performing deconvolution of single molecules to get the resolution enhancement. That's cheating!

In conclusion, I would say that they built a cheaper NSOM rather than a better microscope.

Re:theoretical limit (3, Informative)

Americium (1343605) | more than 3 years ago | (#35361756)

Actually it's worse when things are closer. Focusing plane waves must only bend/reflect the light a little, and a simple parabolic mirror will do. But when you aren't in the far distant limit, the light is still expanding outward, like the light from a candle, in all directions. Now you need something MORE angled than a parabolic mirror, you need to bend the light MORE, so the limit is hit even sooner. This is widely studied, and there are plenty of theoretically sound models taking into account your specific lenses.

Wiki link [wikipedia.org]

The semiconductor manufacturing uses near field photolithography for ages where they routinely create features smaller than the diffraction limit.

What exactly do you mean by this? They often use photomasks, shorter wavelengths, or narrow slits at very close range, so the light has no time to spread out. The LIMIT is what you can focus, so perhaps you can't focus your laser to 10nm, but you can just shoot lots of light through a 10nm gap, and it'll burn a 10nm, hole. Now if they were using a laser 1m away, no photomasks, and actually focused it (completely focused) to 10nm, then they would have broke the limit.

Use UV light and shift back up afterwards? (3, Interesting)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360390)

Something I've always wanted to know is why can't scientists throw UV or even xrays on the matter in question and 'transpose' or shift any reflected light back up to the normal visible spectrum? Of course, xrays penetrate objects, but is this 100%, or is a tiny percentage reflected back?

Re:Use UV light and shift back up afterwards? (4, Informative)

cr42yr1ch (1764012) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360660)

It is a matter of simplicity of optics, damage to the sample and contrast. Visible light optics are very advanced (i.e. glass lenses), but it starts to get difficult as you head towards shorter wavelenths. X rays, especially high energy (short wavelength) ones, are extremely hard to focus. Short wavelengths of light also damage biological samples (imagine UV and sunburn). A key requirement for generating an image is high contrast, use of very short wavelength light/electrons requires heavy metal staining to get good contrast, not exactly ideal for looking at a living cell.

Re:Use UV light and shift back up afterwards? (1)

labnet (457441) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360744)

Something I've always wanted to know is why can't scientists throw UV or even xrays on the matter in question and 'transpose' or shift any reflected light back up to the normal visible spectrum? Of course, xrays penetrate objects, but is this 100%, or is a tiny percentage reflected back?

This is exactly what Royal Rife (who once worked under Carl Zeis) was claimed to have done.
He hetrodyned two UV sources incident on the cell to produce sum and difference frequencies, where the difference frequency was visible light.
The story goes on that he was then able to destroy specific virii (including cancerous) by using a highly modulated RF carrier, where the modulation frequency (ie not so much the specific carrier frequency but rather its amplitude modulation frequency).
Then the consipracy theories start, where his machine threatened the cancer establishment (AMA), and all his work, machines and lab were maliciously destroyed/discredited.

Normal light (2)

Woogiemonger (628172) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360480)

I was wondering why they mention "normal light". It's not at all a measure of comparison between this new microscope and its predecessors. I figure it's an artifact of something mentioned by the interviewed scientists. The subject of observation can react to abnormal light levels, and may even die, so they cannot just up the light level.

I watched this TED talk here: "http://www.ted.com/talks/sheila_patek_clocks_the_fastest_animals.html" which details a scientist's struggles to see a tiny organism (a mantis shrimp) at high speeds, and she stressed "low light" was important, because too much light would kill it. While in the film business, more light equals better video, the same cannot be applied to biology.

Re:Normal light (1)

cr42yr1ch (1764012) | more than 3 years ago | (#35360790)

By "normal light" they mean normal white light illumination, most pre-existing sub-diffraction resolution techniques use illumination of fluorescent dyes which require illumination by a specific light wavelength and do can only detect the stained structures.

Is this really new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35360826)

http://users.navi.net/~rsc/rife1.htm

Royal R. Rife invented an optical microscope which he used to view live viruses and bacteria:
"Royal Raymond Rife was the inventor of the Universal Microscope which he presented to the world in 1933. Besides being the most powerful optical microscope ever made up to that time, it was also the most versatile. The Universal used all types of illumination: polarised, monochromatic or white light, dark field, slit ultra and infra-red. It could be used for all manner of microscopical work, including petrological work or for crystallography and photomicrography. According to a report submitted to the Journal of the Franklin Institute it had a magnification of 60,000x, and a resolution of 31,000x. The ocular of this instrument was binocular, but it also had a detachable segment lower in the body for monocular observation at 1800x (x=power) magnification. "

How about in reverse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35360944)

Will this let us make smaller cpu feature sizes?

I've Got a Question (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#35361346)

So, as someone who hasn't studied optics in at least 6 years, and doesn't plan on picking up a book regarding the matter anytime soon, I have a very naive, and possibly silly question.

Could a similar technique to this be used in reverse to make more powerful telescopes?

Re:I've Got a Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35361866)

As someone who hasn't studied optics in 6 years, you have forgotten that microscopes and telescopes perform the same function: they make small objects appear larger.

Re:I've Got a Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35361928)

yes... if you could put a appropriately sized transparent sphere directly in front of the star you are interested in, "several" light years from here ;-).

In other words...sorry no, this technique is all about looking at small stuff, not stuff far away.

pics or it didnt happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35361948)

pics or it didnt happen

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