The Invisible World of cute Animalcules doing cute things
December 7, 2013 4:15 AM   Subscribe

We are all surrounded by microorganisms, they live on us within us and around us, they affect everything we do, yet most people have no idea what they look like. Using the latest technology it is possible to see into this normally invisible world
posted by Blasdelb (24 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Tardigrades (water bears) previously
posted by Blasdelb at 4:22 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pretty pictures ...

If only there was a way to let me know what am I looking at without having to do a 4 yr course in microbiology.

/Is there a version with some labeling?
posted by TheLittlePrince at 4:26 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I looked around for one, but unfortunately not. However, I've spent way too much time day dreaming into hay infusions with a key book next to me, and could identify most of them down to at least a vaguely reasonable level for you if you find one that strikes your fancy.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:32 AM on December 7, 2013

I kept expecting the camera to suddenly zoom out to the image of a person and some deep scary voice to say "...and they're all over you!"
posted by chavenet at 4:36 AM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

could identify most of them

It's not so much names or anything like that, as that we laymen would like to have a better sense of what kind of scale, etc. is involved here, and where - in general - these sort of things are living.

Is this bacterial scale? Or are these 'animals'?
posted by woodblock100 at 4:37 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here is a great tool for getting a sense of scale at these sizes, which in this video varies wildly across three or four orders of magnitude from a micrometer or two to a few millimeters.

A few are multicellular like the Tardigrade at 6 minutes, the otherwise not so keyable Tubellarians (tube looking things), and the nematodes at the end, but the rest look like single cells, which can get enormous on the scale of a normal bacteria. Most of them are clearly from hay infusions or pond water, though not all of them are so identifiable.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:57 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Using the latest technology? That isn't even modern technology, let alone contemporary technology.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:26 AM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Identifying...While we're about it, does anyone know which string quartet is being played in the background?
posted by Namlit at 6:00 AM on December 7, 2013

string quartet

Check the tags ... :-)
posted by woodblock100 at 6:07 AM on December 7, 2013

Ah. That's what tags are for: being read. Humbly over to the metatalk thread...
posted by Namlit at 6:30 AM on December 7, 2013

Similarly and on a larger scale: Army Ants by Tom Waits.

I'd really like a creepy narration for the animalcules video similar to that.
posted by Jacob Knitig at 6:42 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

That might be the cilia-est thing I've ever seen.
posted by umberto at 7:14 AM on December 7, 2013 [7 favorites]

Thanks! That brings back many happy memories of spending the whole day looking through the microscope.
posted by sneebler at 7:53 AM on December 7, 2013

One of those things is stuck to my eyeball.

I can faintly see it at night.

It's been there for years.

No one believes me.
posted by CynicalKnight at 7:57 AM on December 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

"No one believes me."

I do!

While it is not one of these things, and you should mention them to your ophthalmologist as part of the annual check up we should all be getting, it may be something that is incredibly annoying while you're trying to look through a microscope at these things. You may be seeing vitreous eye floaters. If there is a sudden increase in them accompanied by flashes of light that aren't there see an ophthalmologist immediately to get checked out for retinal detachment, but aside from that they're generally harmless.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:07 AM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

stuck to my eyeball

Floaters. We've all got them ... more visible for some of us than others.
posted by woodblock100 at 8:07 AM on December 7, 2013

I can't see this sort of thing without being reminded of Surface Tension by James Blish, one of those literally wonderful SF world-building novellas of the 1950s - basically, tiny humans find themselves in a pond world, filled with the sort of beasts from that video... Pixar, are you taking notes?

Agreed, that video is frustrating because it sparks curiosity but doesn't let you scratch that itch. Expanded to a full-length Attenborough-narrated documentary, and we'd be in business.
posted by Devonian at 8:27 AM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know very little biology, but about half way through some deep center in my brain yelled "Volvox!' and then went back to being dormant again.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:06 AM on December 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yay, I love it. Gorgeous!
posted by Scientist at 11:35 AM on December 7, 2013

Is this from a movie or doc?
posted by Halogenhat at 11:43 AM on December 7, 2013

I'd guess that a tiny point source held sufficiently close to the cornea (the bead on the end of a very fine fused optical fiber, say) could cast a recognizable shadow onto the retina of some of the larger microorganisms to be found on the surface of the eyeball.
posted by jamjam at 11:47 AM on December 7, 2013

Came for the pictures, stayed for the music.
posted by Cranberry at 12:20 PM on December 7, 2013

That reminds me--I forgot to wash my hands.
posted by mondo dentro at 12:32 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Floaters. We've all got them ...

Oh, I have several of those too. They alarm me when they flounce about in my peripheral vision, looking for a moment like a spider making a run for me.

But this thing is barely visible and even then only under washed out lighting conditions against a dull monotone background. It is always in the same place and has moving parts that flagellate quickly and rhythmically. I cannot quite tell if they're cilia, or something internal, but it's very similar to the pulpy machinations of the see-through ballet linked above.
posted by CynicalKnight at 3:58 PM on December 8, 2013

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