Seeing the invisible

Over the last few years I have done several films about technologies that render fuzzy images clear. For example, a couple years ago I did a film about Jerry Nelson, the engineer/physicist that led the building of the Keck telescope in Mauna Kea. His great insight was that big telescopes need not be built from a single piece of glass. Instead, a large area of glass could be paved, like with bathroom tiles. Professional astronomers use large mirrors to collect the light of distant stars. Nelson reasoned that technology could be used to knit a honeycomb of mirrored tiles into one gigantic mirror. Once he figured out how to make the giant tiling of smaller mirrors act like one huge one, he used another technology previously used by the military to clean up images – adaptive optics.

There are amazing ways to make microscopic smudges into detailed and chiseled 3D models of complex molecules.There is an entire huge database of molecular structures – the Protein Database – you can flip through here. 

Physicists are able to find tiny subatomic particles – how do they know they are there?

I am now working on a story about some of the insights that go into seeing the invisible. I will share some of those insights as I learn them.

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