The Slightly Disgruntled Scientist

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Fun with Nanoparticles

I wrote this in 2005, whilst doing my physics honours project. For me, this involved 60–80 hours per week of experimental work — sitting for hours in front of a magnetometry rig, electron microscope, and for a few days there, a nuclear research reactor. My lab was in the basement, so I would go for days at a time without ever seeing the Sun.

After a while you go a little funny.

So the other day I’m doing electron microscopy on a sample of nanoparticles. I do all the alignments and calibrations and select an area to start taking images from, pretty much at random. The first thing I see is:

TEM image of nanoparticles

Now I’ll be the first to claim that staring at a green phosphor or LCD screen for hours on end is not the best thing for one’s sanity, but the first thing I noticed was the pattern of particles in the area shown below…

TEM image of nanoparticles with outlined area

I thought it looked… well, kind of like a cute little cartoon dog. Of course, our brains do this sort of thing all the time (“…the technical term is ‘pareidolia’…”) — but it still had me worried.

Now, I don’t know what compelled me to actually go further with this. I think that this next step really shows me crossing the line from ‘slightly frazzled’ right over to ‘freakishly obsessive.’ Nonetheless, I did it and I can’t go back — I traced around the particles.

I don’t think any commentary is needed on this. Observe:

TEM image with imaginary dog outlined

And after removing the original image:

TEM image with imaginary dog outlined

It’s only a shame it wasn’t the face of Jesus, because then I could sell the sample on eBay.


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