Science and Tech
Can You Guess What These Strange Science Images Are?

Marshall Lemon | 10 Oct 2014 16:30
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If I had to guess, I'd say this was some kind of alien tower that's being featured in a film adaptation of HP Lovecraft. It's base pierces the ground and sucks up previous resources, and if attacked, monsters will emerge and swarm a group of hapless investigators.

That's actually not far from the truth - you just have to think small. Very small. This is a computer rendering of a virus, specifically the Enterobacteria phage T4. It's known to infect Escherichia coli bacteria (better known as E. coli), which was already one of the more unpleasant infections to be exposed to. It's actually fairly large for a virus, at about 200 nanometres long and 90 wide. Not that you're going to see it with the naked eye, anyway.

That's not an exaggeration; this virus is so small that we barely have the equipment to properly photograph it. The best we can do is run the virus through multiple shots of an electron microscope and reconstruct 3D models as computer images. This particular example is presented in a way that the human eye can understand, although in truth it probably doesn't quite match the reality.

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