Friday, March 22, 2013

Sand Magnification.


Last year George Lantz shared some incredibly fine sand with me to view under the microscope.  These came from a beach in Hawaii and were tiny jewels at high magnification, showing incredible diversity of color and shape.











Even with my relatively inexpensive microscope used for these photographs, I could see that many were remnants of tiny sea creatures.  In addition to the diverse colors, there were grains with holes through them and others that were spiral shell imprints.  I suspected these were microfossils as the tiny shells seemed unlikely to have survived the pounding and grinding of the sea.

Just today I came across a site by Dr. Gary Greenberg dedicated to photographs of magnified grains of sand.  He has pictures from many different beaches and discusses the origin of the sand grains.

There are many estimates of the number of grains of sand on earth and arguments on whether there are more stars than grains of sand as Carl Sagan proposed.  If you are interested in the debate, check out npr.org/blogs/krulwich blog in which Robert Krulwich does the math.  Incredibly, it turns out that 10 drops of water contain as many water molecules as the estimated number of stars in the galaxy.

If you are starting to feel small, you can go to the Grains of Sand Magnified site.  There you can take solace in your individuality.  Dr. Greenberg says that each grain is different, just like snowflakes, and us.

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