Macro or Micro, minerals, glaciers, sand dunes and feathers look alike
November 5, 2013 5:48 AM   Subscribe

As a joke, Stephen Young, a geography professor at Salem State University, put a landscape image on the office door of Paul Kelly, a herpetologist colleague of Young's. The biologist mistook it for an electron microscope image that his office mate had created, which got the two talking and comparing imagery. “We found that we had this similar interest in understanding scale and how people perceive it,” Young explained. They tested each-other over the past year, and now have created and collected more than 50 puzzling images—of polished minerals and glaciers, sand dunes and bird feathers—for display in “Macro or Micro?,” an exhibition currently at both Salem State University’s Winfisky Gallery and Clark University’s Traina Center for the Visual and Performing Arts. You can test yourself with images hosted on The Smithsonian Magazine blog, Yahoo News and HuffPo (via io9).
posted by filthy light thief (11 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I suspect that getting licked by a leopard frog is a raspy experience. These are ace.
posted by arcticseal at 5:53 AM on November 5, 2013

These are cool images and since I got most of them wrong, I'm gonna say that "macro" taken from a sufficiently long distance is sort of "micro". So there.

What is the cause of those white lines in Image 11?
posted by three blind mice at 6:05 AM on November 5, 2013

Self-similarity at different scales: The Universe is a fractal.
posted by localroger at 6:07 AM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Got 10/15.
three blind mice: "What is the cause of those white lines in Image 11?"
Mysterious marks in Chinese desert are for testing spy satellites.
posted by brokkr at 6:57 AM on November 5, 2013

I think what this shows us is that our brains and our sense organs have not evolved the ability to analyze and recognize phenomena at scales that vary greatly from our own size and the sizes of the things or parts of things we interact with on a daily basis.
posted by univac at 8:22 AM on November 5, 2013

From the HuffPo piece:
"Some patterns appear to repeat themselves in nature," Dr. Young said in the email. "The study of fractals has shown this for some patterns, where, as you zoom in, the same pattern repeats itself. Also, there is nothing in the image to provide you with a measure of scale and so it is all shape and pattern. Shape and pattern do not define size."
I tend to agree with this - if there is nothing to provide a sense of scale, some patterns are found throughout nature. I guessed the dragon fly wing macro correctly, because there was something to give a sense of scale - the scratches looked too sharp and too small to be large-form features.

Also, my wife saw these and said the false-color images were "cheating," by testing you with an image most people wouldn't expect to see as a natural feature.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:30 AM on November 5, 2013

13/15. But I look at a lot of satellite/orbiter imagery, so I think I have a pretty extensive mental library of textures.

(Also, hint: If there is more than one light source, it's NOT macro.)
posted by BrashTech at 8:38 AM on November 5, 2013

Maybe it's the internet and i've been looking at macro/micro pron for so long that this just isn't difficult for me. then again i look at SEM's for work occasionally.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:05 AM on November 5, 2013

My usual rule of thumb for these types of images: If it looks really horrible and gross, chances are it's a micro and it's from somewhere on your face.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:42 AM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I cannot possibly be the only person who read this post and thought immediately of Tobias Fünke's balls.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 12:04 PM on November 5, 2013

I got 13/15, primarily by looking for the false colour images though. These are always fascinating to look at, both the macro and micro photographs, because they tease you with stories on enormously unfamiliar timescales. It reminds me of this Feynman interview.

I like browsing through the The HiRISE image catalogue occasionally too. It has tens of thousands of surprisingly varied landscape images from Mars, if you're a fellow areophile.
posted by lucidium at 1:54 PM on November 5, 2013

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