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Thread: Microscopes :)

  1. #1 Microscopes :) 
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    Hi

    This is stupid but what is the smallest THING you can see under a light microscope?

    And what is the smallest THING you can see with an electronic microscope?

    Not looking for a length, but is there a THING in particular that is really super-duper tiny that can be seen through those? What are they?

    Thanks!

    PS

    Does anyone know who and what Antoine Van Leeuwenhoek did? Who was he?



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  3. #2  
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    You sure this isn't your homework?
    Anyway, as this clearly looks like a homework, I won't answer the Leeuwenhoek question, it is simple as it is.
    For microscopes, under most light microscopes you can only see groups of cells, or eventually single cells, however with optical scanning, single molecules were observed.
    For electron microscopes, the tiniest thing seen through those was a group of 3 sub-subatomic particles. (Which form an proton, in much larger numbers however.)


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  4. #3  
    Moderator Moderator AlexP's Avatar
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    Can you find a reliable reference for that last part, Sindrato? I have a very hard time believing that quarks have been observed using microscopy. Some type of imaging was used to obtain an image of a surface of I think it was either gallium or germanium atoms, but after that there would be a long, long way to go before quarks could be imaged, if they can be at all.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    I'm pretty sure it would be impossible to see subatomic particles using an electron microscope, since an electron microscope relies on the deflection of electrons to create an image. You can see the outlines of organelles within cells and even viruses with electron micrographs, but nothing smaller than that as far as I'm aware.

    There are other visualizing methods, like x-ray chrystalography that can give you a visual of large molecules, like proteins.

    I'm sure there are other visualizing methods for stuff even smaller than that, as mentioned by Alex, but I'm not familiar with them. Definitely not through electron microscopy though.

    Single cells are also fairly easy to see under even a standard light microscope. Very small bacteria tend to look like dots, but you can still see them. With the right stains, you can see chromosomes under a light microscope, bacterial capsules, and flagellum.
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  6. #5  
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    AlexP, that was an information I pulled out of my memory, but if I remember correctly it was in a old encyclopedia I don't currently have available. I will check it. However, it is possible that either I remember inaccurately, or that their nomenclature is wrong and those were protons or neutrons, not quarks.
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  7. #6  
    Reptile Dysfunction drowsy turtle's Avatar
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    Are you thinking of Scanning tunneling microscopes?

    Whole atoms can be resolved; however, nucleons are an order of 10^5 times smaller.
    "The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair." ~ Douglas Adams
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