I first read “The War Of the Worlds” by H.G Wells as a young teenager, and its opening lines were my first, and career defining, introduction to the wonder and hidden power of microbiology. Here are those lines:
“that as men busied themselves about their various concerns, they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”
I followed my early passion and became a microbiologist, and in a sense am now that “man with a microscope”. If I take a drop of water from a watery environment and observe under a microscope, I know that it’s lenses will reveal to me a frenzied world of microbial life, as so eloquently described by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
” So in a single drop of water the microscope discovers, what motions, what tumult, what wars, what pursuits, what stratagems, what a circle-dance of Death and Life, Death hunting Life and Life renewed and invigorated by Death … a many meaning cypher.”
I’ve developed a novel process that records the paths taken by these microscopic creatures, and which for the first time, reveals the extent of their usually invisible activity. The resulting images remind me of images of radioactive decay, or atomic particle collisions, as they are seen using cloud chambers, and thus I have a strong sense that each species reveals its self as a unique biological wavelength and frequency.
I’ve used the technique here to reveal the microbial activity in the water of this rather unpromising bucket of collected rainwater.