What Is It? #6

What Is It? #6

What Is It? #6 (click to enlarge)

It’s time once again to put your peepers to the test, with the latest edition in our ingeniously-titled ‘What Is It?’ competition. By now I’m sure you know the drill, and if you don’t it’s kinda self-explanatory, but here’s what you do: 

1. Look at this photo
2. Tell us what it is 

Pretty straightforward stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. And cheers once more to Prof. Dowling for the image. 

Last week we got all mushy and asked you what this photo is. As usual we got a good set of responses. Most got pretty close, although unfortunately for Barra, there was no doomed Martian lovers involved:

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?

And no liquorice allsorts either; apologies to Ross Clark:

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

What it actually is, is a rather cool Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy (STM) image of palladium atoms. Amazingly, the heart is roughly a nanometre across.

No fully correct answers this week, but nearly all of you got most of the way there. Sophie, Jon d, Tom Williamson and Ellie all recognised we were looking at something very small, probably an STM image. Unfortunately, nearly everyone claimed we were looking at carbon nanotubes, and not Palladium, so no 100% pass rates today.

But you know what, as you were all on the right track, and as the image was in honour of Valentine’s Day and we’re all loving souls here at MSS, we’re going to credit you as having got this one right. So… well done, everyone!


  1. #1 by Tom W on February 26, 2010 - 13:01

    Now that is almost certainly some cells, but which cells? I will guess some red blood cells.

  2. #2 by Ashley S on February 26, 2010 - 13:57

    Maybe potato starch granules?

  3. #3 by AJ on February 26, 2010 - 17:49

    When I ‘click to enlarge’ they all still measure less than 10 micromteres.

    Do I win an ice-cream?

  4. #4 by Paul on February 27, 2010 - 05:35

    Looks like my Daughters old mattress when she was a baby… complete with poop stains!!!

  5. #5 by Jon d on February 27, 2010 - 13:06

    Bacteria living in poo?

  6. #6 by Stan T on February 28, 2010 - 16:48

    Out of focus bone marrow aspirate, acute leukaemia, non specific esterase stain.

  7. #7 by Stan T on February 28, 2010 - 16:52

    Out of focus bone marrow aspirate, acute leukaemia, non specific esterase stain.

  8. #8 by Barra on February 28, 2010 - 22:31

    Some sort of pollen?

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