Electron microscopes are murder on their subjects, because the devices work only in a vacuum. Now, researchers at the University of California at San Diego have developed a more tender way to study tiny life.
In the new system, an intense but harmless laser burst illuminates the specimen--such as this bit of algae, just 1/250 inch wide. Atoms in the specimen resonate in response to the laser and generate a pulse of light. By sweeping a laser through the algae and plotting the return signals, scientists crafted this detailed image without creating laboratory carnage.