From Ants to Atoms
of The World
using a Virtual Microscope
MicroScape is a project which is designed to allow individuals to experience the flavor of microscopic examination of the world using their computer as a "Virtual Microscope". This is done by reocrding a series of digital images in a computer controlled microscope (see for example the TelePresence Microscopy Project) and then storing these images in a format which can be interactively downloaded and run on a personal computer using off-the-shelf software. The current software used to view and display these image is Apple's QuickTime Viewer, which is available free of charge for both MacIntosh and Windows Operating Systems.
In the MicroScape Virtual Laboratory you will find a collection of "Digital" images which begin at High Magnification and progress down in Magnification simulating an on-line "Virtual Microscope". Using the single frame advance option of the QT display software you can step through these images slowly increasing or decreasing the magnification over the range provided by the library sequence, much like you would by changing the magnification in a real microscope. Using the interactive controls you will be able to vary the magnified image view up and down.
Here is an example, shown as individual frames from a digital sequence rather than a user controlled movie. The image size is small and the number of views is limited so that you can see them all at once.
Images of a Sewing Needle at different Magnifications.
To download and view these images, go to the Virtual Lab click on the link/icon of the specimen you wish to study and then let your WWW browser download the digital sequence to your Computer. After you have downloaded the images use your QuickTime compatible viewer in it's single frame advance mode, and slowly step through the images. If you are not familiar with our microscopic world then see if you can guess ahead of time what each object really is before you reach the final (lowest) magnification. On the last frame of the virtual microscope image is a description of what the item really is, just in case you haven't already figured it out.
You will need to configure your Browser to save the Movie onto your hard disk and/or to startup a QuickTime Plug-in. Please refer to your Browser instructions for that step. If you are using NetScape, you can display these Images directly in your WWW Browser Window using the QT Plug-In Module available from Apple.
If you wish you may also view this with an external program, on a MacIntosh you will need only a copy of QT MoviePlayer. On a PC
you will need QT for Windows. Versions suitable for a Unix platform will be available in the near future.
For best viewing you should make sure your monitor is set to Thousands of Colors (i.e. 16 bit mode) if your monitor is set to only 256 Colors (8 bit mode) then the images will not appear in their full dynamic range and appear washed out or gray-level segmented. If you cannot display 16 bit images then switch your monitor to 256 Grays, this will give an optimal display of these images on 8 bit (256 Color) monitors.
Warning: If you have only a 640x480 monitor and are attempting to view these images via a WWW Browser using a QT Plug-In the frame controls for the increasing/decreasing the magnification may be off the bottom of your screen. The High Resolution image sizes are 512 x 512 pixels and on a 640 x 480 monitor the image will extend over the top and bottom limits of your screen. Generally the elevator/scroll controls on the right hand side of you WWW Browser window should allow you to get to the bottom of the window where the controls are, however, in some browsers the elevators/scroll bars do not appear. In that case you should copy the file to your hard drive rather than trying to run via the WWW Browser. You can (on a MacIntosh) still cycle through the images by using the left/right (<- ->) arrows on you keyboard but you will not see all the image detail. The Low resolution images are only 128 x 128 pixels and should display on all computer monitors without problem.
Image Sizes and Download Times:
The nature of these images is such that their size and download times can be quiet large and long. Please note the size of each image BEFORE you start to download it to your computer. All these virtual microscope images will be (eventually) posted in two formats. Low resolution images suitable for downloading via a modem connection (Image sizes ~ 128 x 128 pixels with file sizes < 200 Kbytes) and High resolution images ( image sizes ~ 512 x 512 pixels with file sizes ~ 1-5 Mbytes) which are appropriate only for only those that have high speed internet connections or alot of patience.
Generally, I would recommend you download the low resolution (LR) images and prevew the entire sequence to see if you really want to copy the high resolution (HR)images. Remember a simple calculation shows that with a slow modem connection (i.e. < 28.8 Kb) a High Resolution Image ~ 1 Mbyte can take an hour or more to download!
Enjoy the view.... Nestor
Enter the MicroScape Virtual Laboratory