This Is What Sand Looks Like Under A Microscope

o-sand-570Sand from Skeleton Beach in Namibia, Africa.Magnification 250xo-sand-570-1o-okinawa-570

With the help of a powerful 3D microscope, the Hawaii-based photographer Gary Greenberg shoots stunning macro images of grains of sand, dissecting the seemingly uniform material into otherworldly crystals. The microscope, which the artist himself invented after earning a Ph.D. in biomedical research, magnifies the microscopic to 300 times their original size; the machine also affords the resultant images an astounding depth of field, capturing the most subtle curves and structures of the minuscule grains of sand.

Greenberg derives pleasure from the unpredictability of his process; each beach has a diverse history and therefore produces unique sand. In Maui alone, the grain shapes range from cylinders to spirals; they can be vividly colored or more muted. In the same handful of sand, we might find a tiny shell beside a microscopic mineral section that resembles an eaten corn cob.

Sand, as a substance, often operates allegorically in art, representing the impermanence of man within the shifting tides. Greenberg’s images work powerfully against that notion; here, human innovation freezes time, if only for a moment, fixing even the most minuscule objects in place. These grains of sand, many of which are likely well over thousands of years old, are crystallized for our visual pleasure; in Greenberg’s glimmering rocks, we can find traces of organic matter, now fossilized. Torn into many pieces by the tide and surf, shells, volcanic remains, and coral all intermingle on the beach shore. In Okinawa, Japan, sand is formed in part by the skeletons of single-celled creatures, visible here like strange starfish. (via HuffPost, Lost at E Minor, and Bored Panda)

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