A Tiny Universe

I've been thinking about microscopes a lot lately, due to my recent partnership with Celestron. Celestron is well-known for their incredible astronomy equipment. Their social media feeds are filled with stunning images of the night sky. Nebulae. Galaxies. Planets. Moons. Looking to the universe is the inspirational stuff dreams are made of. My nephew is so captivated with space that at age 12 he has his whole life mapped out to maximize his chances of getting into the Air Force so that he can become an astronaut. He lives and breathes space and the endless possibilities there in.


Change Your View

I dream of the universe as well. But my dreams are a little different. I am captivated by the tiny universe under our feet. I dream about the world that is bustling, active and alive under my nose. In my teaching I call it "putting your small eyes on."   I discovered this phenomenon during my first entomology course. I was three weeks in to the semester and all of a sudden, I saw bugs everywhere. I would drift in and out of conversations because something flew by. I was walking down the sidewalk to the grocery store with the ants. Those girls were on an errand and so was I. It sounds strange, but insects started to land on me more often (I think I just noticed it more, like when you're car shopping and all of a sudden you see the car you want everywhere.) Now my students tell me the same thing. They are late to class because they stopped to watch a yellow jacket grab a caterpillar and fly away with it. At parties they find themselves talking about bugs and listening to wings buzzing by as though they are the intended other-half of the conversation.

Studying arthropods has changed my view of the world. It has fractured The Big World I inhabit into thousands of smaller worlds, and the more I learn about the interconnectedness of organisms and ecosystems, the more I see how those worlds depend on each other. The closer the look, the more intricate and beguiling it becomes. And when you start using a microscope- oh, boy. It's like Ms. Frizzle has given you a ticket to The Magic School Bus and nothing will ever be the same. A microscope gives us the ultimate 'small eyes.'  Note: If you are too young to know about TMSB, get thee to YouTube NOW.

Microscopes and Meditation

I tell myself I'm not great at meditating or being still or practicing mindfulness, but when I look through a scope something similar to meditation happens.  This is what I cherish about entomology. The study of small things has taught me to slow down. I can't be the only person who sits at a microscope and experiences a spiritual disassociation with time. I'm most experienced with dissecting and compound scopes because of my research on solifuges and other lab work. Consumer digital scopes came on to the scene in the last fifteen years, but as they've gotten better and better they have replaced the larger scopes for me. But I get that same zen feeling. I'm focused on focusing.  The world and its stresses fall away. I can focus on my passion and my mind creates space for questions and creativity. Space for inquiry and discovery- which is the stuff of dreams as well as of science.

This has been my love song to the Tiny Universe that lives in parallel to our big, busy, important lives. A love song to the tools that help me see it, engage with it and ask questions of it. Thank you for listening and humming along.

Do you love a certain piece of equipment that helps you do your job?