Jun 27 2013

Nothing to do with anything I usually write about, but this is just too freakin’ cool

My mom is always emailing me unusual things, most of them forwarded from one of the more unusual friends she’s fallen in with since she moved to Ireland, and this one she forwarded to me today was just too cool not to share.

Check out these seriously cool photos of grains of sand magnified 110-250 times. I can’t post the actual photos here because they’re copyrighted, so click on the link to check them out: http://www.inspirationgreen.com/index.php?q=magnified-grains-of-sand.html


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  1. 1

    Very cool. This weekend the kids and I are going to head to the beach and then pull the microscope off the shelf.

  2. 2


  3. 3
    Chris Rodda

    Someone on my Facebook page was just saying that these photos were going around with a religious message saying that every grain of sand is a miracle … LOL. Obviously, these were particularly cool things found in sand that were selected for the photos, but, like I said to my Facebook friend, never underestimate the ability of people to turn something completely explainable by science to a third grader all religious.

  4. 4
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    FWIW, since I spent THOUSANDS of hours doing this while a grad student (although my samples were mostly from the deep ocean), I can give a bit of info on what these are:
    Photo #1: central grain is the snail shell, top and right are foraminifera (“forams”). Bottom left is almost certainly a bryozoan colony rather than coral. Not sure what the other grains are.

    Photo #2: 3-ended object – probably a sponge spicule. Two elongated objects at center top and elongated object left bottom – sea urchin spines. Forams: Top left, top 2nd left, objects above and left of sponge spicule, middle two objects on right side, and coiled object about 1/3 in from top left. The 2 yellow objects 2nd from right on bottom and below the 2 urchin spines are probably bryozoan colonies.

    Photo #3: top 2 left: forams. Center right: Limpet? The rest look mostly like quartz grains.

    Photo #4: right hand side – urchin spines. The bulbous bottom part is where they attach to the urchin. Far left – crab claw.

    After a few hundred hours, they got less exciting, but it was always interesting to see what might turn up. Tiny shark and other fish teeth, fish scales, micrometeorites and microtektites, ice-rafted sand grains hundreds of km from land, foraminifera (what I mostly looked at), diatoms, radiolarians, dinoflagellates, urchin spines – you never knew what might turn out. And under the microscope, much of it was quite beautiful.

  5. 5
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Chris Rodda @3

    Yeah, just check the comments thread below the images. I’m not sure what the conditions for “perfect storm” are, but you can’t post interesting images of nature on some sites without the godbot parade showing up. I can’t find anything particularly religious about that site in particular, but “grain of sand” + “inspiration” = vocal Christian welcome mat via search engine.

    Those are some pretty cool images. If you want more (or just like things arenaceous in general, flip though throughthesandglass.typepad.com , e.g.,
    and Welland’s Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/35426146@N05/with/3328989132/
    or http://www.sandgrains.com/Sand-Grains-Gallery.html

    Please excuse my enthusiasm.

  6. 6

    Miracles contradict physical laws. These are the result of physical laws. Thanks for the link.

  7. 7

    Amazing and beautiful. The grains are so different and so many of them used to be a part of a living creature. It gave me an immediate visceral feel for the tremendous amount of time that must be involved for each little piece to be broken, polished, transported great distances, and perhaps to have lived and died in the process. Don’t read the comments, which are full of ignorant and unimaginative people praising their god for having poofed it all into existence with no history at all. How can they reject the intriguing history so magnificently on display? Sagan was right about these people: “No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.”

  8. 8

    Dana Hunter needs to see this!

    And I need to go down to a nearby beach, collect a sample, and at least use a magnifying glass! I wonder what ever happened to my old Gilbert microscope set?

  9. 9

    I never knew grains of sand looked like that. Thank you!

  10. 10

    Sand is intelligently designed to creep into my shoes and not out again. It’s also designed to hold ants, thousands of ants.

  11. 11
    Reginald Selkirk

    Many grains of sand are tiny crystals (shiny, flat sided solids)

    Not so. Crystals are defined by their internal order, not their exterior facets.

  12. 12
    Reginald Selkirk

    Somehow I think you will like these as well:
    The Blaschka Marine Invertebrates
    Amazingly lifelike replicas of sea life crafted in glass

  13. 13

    Ha, the god-bothering comments are too laughable! I would love to stand up in front of them and tell them it’s debris, detritus, the ocean’s garbage. It’s like I visited a landfill and pulled out all the shiny bits: a wine bottle here; a lug nut there; some plastic beads; PVC tubing; jelly jars… Then I arrange it with soft lighting and take photos. “BOG BE PRAISED! Such lovely artifacts wrought by its loving children!”.

    Cargo cultism wrought small.

  14. 14

    Beautiful and thrilling! I really can’t wade through all the religious comments but someone has to mention that William Blake quotation; ” To see the world in a grain in a grain of sand…” Although Blake was an extreme science hater, Dawkins admires his poetry and Dr Bronowski opened one the ‘Ascent of Man’ programmes with this verse. In full;
    “To see a world in a grain of sand,
    And a heaven in a wild flower,
    Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
    And eternity in an hour.”

    First verse of The Auguries of Innocence.

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