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Biotech Medicine Science Technology

First Color Images Produced By an Electron Microscope (sciencemag.org) 46

Slashdot reader sciencehabit quotes Science magazine: Imagine spending your whole life seeing the world in black and white, and then seeing a vase of roses in full color for the first time. That's kind of what it was like for the scientists who have taken the first multicolor images of cells using an electron microscope. Electron microscopes can magnify an object up to 10 million times, allowing researchers to peer into the inner workings of, say, a cell or a fly's eye, but until now they've only been able to see in black and white. The new advance -- 15 years in the making -- uses three different kinds of rare earth metals called lanthanides...layered one-by-one over cells on a microscope slide. The microscope detects when each metal loses electrons and records each unique loss as an artificial color.
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First Color Images Produced By an Electron Microscope

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  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Saturday November 05, 2016 @06:40PM (#53220283)
    Ugh, that is awful phrasing. Almost like "three different kinds of cars called automobiles".
    • by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Saturday November 05, 2016 @06:53PM (#53220359)

      The article itself is full of fail in that regard. They literally call it a color image when it's psuedocolor, just like we've always gotten out of SEM images, the only thing is that the methodology is different in this case.

      • The article itself is full of fail

        Indeed it is.

        I read it wondering how- and if- this process was supposed to produce literal colour images. While I figured out that it probably wasn't, I'm still left wondering how this process is supposed to help is see things better, and what the (pseudo) colours produced by it are supposed to represent- because the article certainly doesn't explain.

    • by gb ( 8474 )

      I think technically the analogy would be "three different kings of road vehicles called automobiles" (you might think the actinides also counted as rare earths) - but the substantive point that the language is clunky still holds.

      • Actinides have anything to do with rare earths? In that case, I was lied to in school!
        • by gb ( 8474 )

          It's semantics really. IUPAC woul say that they are the lanthanides plus yttrium and scandium. I've encountered the term being used more generally (i.e. by non-chemists) to mean anything that's 'down-there' on the periodic table.

          • It's not "semantics" (although it is actual linguistic semantics, of course - but then again, that's too broad to be useful when debating meanings of utterances) if you do or do not include a whole new category of elements, most of them synthetic and not found in nature at all.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    There is no color at that scale, that's false color, and we've seen colorized images plenty...

    If they really want to show some "color" then shift the spectrum of the feature size and map it to visible light, that will at least be proportional color reproduction instead of a few arbitrary dots in a grayscale image.

    captcah is "COMPOST" which is what the article claim is

    • by dak664 ( 1992350 )

      That would be one way, although false coloring through a full spectrum shift seems not to work as well as limited black body color temperature scales. But the potential at every voxel can be derived from the electron scattering, and the gradient of that potential could give a true color image without any shifting. Don't know if any of the colors would be visible to humans, though.

  • by The Real Dr John ( 716876 ) on Saturday November 05, 2016 @06:46PM (#53220317) Homepage

    This is cool, but not color electron microscopy. It is pseudocolor at best based on what things in a cell that the lanthanides bind to. A real color electron microscope would somehow use electrons at different energies to try and figure out the chemical makeup of subcellular structures. Or maybe vaporize the sample line by line by scanning with the electron beam on high after taking the image with lower energy electrons, and then analyze the ions produced. But this is still pretty cool.

    • I was also kind of expecting that they found out how to make electrons figure out the actual colors. But this seems to be an intractable problem, physics-wise. Sadly.
      • given the properties of light photos, the nature of color, and the relationships between color as a perceptual phenomenon, photons, and objects of this scale, I would have imagined that "color" (as in natural color, i.e. color in the conventional sense and its relationship to perception and human anatomy) is not a terribly meaningful of important concept at this scale. Am I wrong?

        This is color used as an unrelated tool—applying color to enhance, essentially, actuance. Yes?

        • by mlyle ( 148697 )

          I think the concept is similar to most color high magnification microscopy--- you stain things, and the stuff that's stained is a different color in the picture. From this you get additional contrast and information.

          • I think the concept is similar to most color high magnification microscopy

            I'm a geologist, you insensitive clod!

            The interference colours we see under crossed polarisers are real colours, intrinsic to the material, it's orientation and the radiation impacting it. (Also, pleochroism visible under polarised illumination without the analyser in the optical assembly.) No stains involved. (Though we do sometimes use stains to improve contrast too, e.g. Aliziarin Red to differentiate between different carbonate m

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      A real color electron microscope...vaporize the sample line by line...then analyze the ions produced.

      "Hey, you found a really unique specimen here! I see a big research paper. Let's revisit that sample."

      You: "Uhhhh..."

  • by gb ( 8474 ) on Saturday November 05, 2016 @06:57PM (#53220377) Homepage

    This doesn't seem such a huge advance - we've been making elemental maps in STEMs for ages and combining several in false colour images for like also ages. As far as I can tell the new thing is that they're doing this by actually imaging selected portions of an electron energy loss spectra (rather than just recording the spectra point-wise) - I guess this makes it slightly faster to generate the image - but there's not really any new science in this.

  • right here. [wikimedia.org]
  • by Lisandro ( 799651 ) on Saturday November 05, 2016 @07:06PM (#53220437)

    The title is misleading - this is false color, but one generated by the electron microscope itself instead of postprocessing. As the article states, it allows for much better contrast than grayscale.

  • by JustOK ( 667959 )
    Big whoop. Cellies.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Transmission electron energy loss microscopy is well established technique. I guess it's neat they did it with cells, I suppose it's kinda hard to do in high vacuum without destroying the cell; but material science has been downing this for a while... I suppose it's typical for when biology uses a well established technique used in the physical sciences to make a big deal out of it. Hopefully, they'll make some cell biology discoveries using this instead of more technique papers...

    Obviously it has to be a p

  • by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Saturday November 05, 2016 @07:47PM (#53220585)

    Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy is pretty old
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    The TEM version is a bit newer. It's only 20 years old.

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas l'Informatique. -- Bosquet [on seeing the IBM 4341]