What Is It? #5

What Is It? #5

What Is It? (click to enlarge)

Last weekend was Valentine’s Day, as you’re doubtlessly aware. Well, we’re not really the mushy sort here at the Merseyside Skeptics Society, so we thought we’d hold off on the love hearts, the the rose petals, and the rainbow-farting unicorns and let you all wallow in your skepticality.

Well, that was the plan, but then the Prof sent us this fantastic image for our What Is It? competition, so we figured bugger it – let’s embrace the love, people. So, what is it? Leave your answers below, as ever.

Last week we showed you this photo and asked you what it was. Contrary to what a lot of people might believe, it wasn’t ghosts, fairies, orbs or spirits… it was simply dust, lit up by the camera flash. Lot’s of you knew the correct answer, so we’ve a few winners this week – first off the mark was Lukasz, with:

I would say it’s dust on lens/negative. Or scratched negative before processing. I didn’t use Google!

We also have honorary mentions for this comprehensive effort from Jon D:

Fair and square I think we’re looking at light from the camera’s flash reflected off particles of dust suspended in the air and bounced back into the camera lens. You see it more often these days because the flash is mounted closer to the lens on compact digital cameras and the cameras are so complex people can’t work out how to switch the auto-flash off. They look blurry and possibly a bit 3 dimensional because they’re out of focus due to being too close to the lens.

What is it? #4

Last week's photo

As well as this from Hampshire Skeptics founder DaveTheDrummer, who was first on our Facebook page:

It’s a dude reflected in a mirror.Perhaps I’m missing the point… With some crap on the mirror that’s reflected the flash you can see in the top right. Which is exactly where it should be for the view point.

Well done!


  1. #1 by Sophie on February 19, 2010 - 12:06

    Is it something very very tiiiiiiiny (perhaps nanotubes?) shot with an electron microscope??

  2. #2 by Andy Wilson on February 19, 2010 - 17:25

    Yes I’m thinking it’s one of those IBM demonstrations of building really tiiiiny things.

  3. #3 by Jon d on February 19, 2010 - 23:48

    Look what I got you for valentines day babe… The worlds smallest loveheart!
    *frosty silence descends*

    I reckon it’s a scanning tunneling micrograph anyway, the romantic colours will be artistic false colour. Agree with Andy and Sophie that it looks like it could be nanotubes and that IBM Probably made it.

  4. #4 by Tom Williamson on February 20, 2010 - 01:05

    My guess would be a scanning electron micrograph of a bunch of carbon nanotubes. They are the only thing I can think of that would be that tall at the molecular level.

    Or it could be a fish or something.

  5. #5 by Scott L on February 20, 2010 - 19:24

    It appears to be a love heart made out of carbon atoms or some kind of carbon structure. It is possibly magnified by an electron microscope.

  6. #6 by Gareth binks on February 21, 2010 - 23:12

    Maybe it’s an Amber led? Are these things skeptically related? They aught to be I think. Makes sense to…

  7. #7 by Michael on February 22, 2010 - 16:23

    Please use “STM” acronym instead of ‘Scanning Tunnelling Microscope’ Saves typing and we will know what you mean. They are all sceptically related as they claim something which is dubious

  8. #8 by Barra on February 23, 2010 - 01:19

    Is it the famous heart cliffs of mars? Where ancient alien civilisations used to jump like lemmings to the rocks below expressing their love for each other?

  9. #9 by Ellie on February 23, 2010 - 05:24

    It’s either STM or AFM (Atomic Force Microscopy). The objects are hexagonally packed but really very tall so, rather than individual atoms, I reckon they are probably the end of nanotubes. I’m going with a lawn of vertically grown carbon nanotubes. The heart shape probably comes from patterning the surface before growing the tubes.

  10. #10 by Ross Clark on February 23, 2010 - 14:09

    Is it a sample from the abortive Bertie Bassett factory at Sellafield?

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