Welcome to the section on Micronaut.ch which explores, analyzes and explains microscopical structures!
The secret of the rose
Petals of roses seem to be smooth. But at magnification of 149-times, a thick fur appears. The individual hairs are up to half a millimetre long. They only grow on the outer side of the petals. What they are for, remains a mystery. Probably, they serve as protection against rain, insects, or the touch of neighbouring roses.
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column - The secret of the rosel, July 2014
Airborne Chemical Cocktail
Pollen grains contain the promise of new life. But on the way to the female flower many things can go wrong. For instance, the grains could end up as a meal for fungi. The Japanese cedar solved this problem by impregnating the pollen wall with defence chemicals. They fend off fungi but they also cause severe allergic reactions with 10 percent of Japan’s society.
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column - Airborne Chemical Cocktail , June 2014
It has stronger arms than a sumo wrestler, a better nose than a dog, and its bite is more deadly than that of a cobra.
Its victims: millions of bee colonies worldwide.
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column - The destroyer ,May 2014
The Navel of the Bacterial World
The belly button is a forgotten part of the human body. Scientists ventured into it in the search for life and found it thousandfold.
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column - The navel of the bacterial world , April 2014
The More Harmless Mosquito
Mosquitoes are despised as transmitters of diseases. But they also have a peaceful side. As larvae, they sweep the surface of ponds and lakes with their mouth brushes.
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column – The more harmless mosquito , March 2014
Blind Flight of the Genes
The genome is one of the most powerful entities in the body of living organisms. If some parts of it are broken, things can go wrong. No other creature shows this better than the fruit fly.
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column - Blind flight of the genes, Febuary 2014
Feeding Frenzy in the Gut
Bacteria are the heroes of our digestion. They split carbohydrates for us, supply us with essential vitamins and protect us from intestinal diseases.
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column - Feeding frenzy in the gut, January 2014
Cyclops in a Kilt
It is a bacterium, a plant and an animal at the same time and almost as old as life itself. Euglena is so ingeniously built that researchers stilldo not fully understand how it works.
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column - Cyclops in a Kilt, December 2013
From Mouth to Mouth
This section analyzes and explores invisibly small structures, and explains the scientifically relevant facts behind Micronaut’s artistic works! The current topic presents you with the moth powerful snout of the world – the mouth of the Springtail (Collembola sp.). Springtails are found in leaf litter and soil. With estimates of 100’000 per cubic metre of topsoil, they are essentially everywhere on Earth.
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column – From Mouth to Mouth, August 2013
Fat cells are considered a nuisance because they give us bellies and flapping upper arms.
But without fat our species would have gone extinct long ago.
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column – Fat Buddies, June 2013
Brittle stars look almost the same as sea stars, but they are only as big as an outstretched human hand. Their evolutionary history goes back 500 million years into the past, which means they belong to the dinosaurs of the seas. Since then, they have changed little. Their current design is almost the same as during primeval times, but in one of the species researchers have discovered a piece of high technology: the brittle star species Ophiocoma wendtii has the ability to detect light and shade… !
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column – Skeleton Eyes, March 2013
Moths have an ambivalent relationship to light: during the night they love it, because it helps them to navigate, but at daytime they must avoid it under any circumstances, because it would instantly betray them to an army of hugry predators… !
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column – Stealth Eyes, December 2012
The picture shows one of the biggest killers of humanity: the pneumococci (Streptococcus pneumoniae). These bacteria possess a kind of armour made of long sugar molecules that make them inaccessible. Moreover, this armour has a negative charge, which prevents them from adhering to surfaces. Like rubber balls the bacteria bounce off and work their way through the airways deeper into the body until they end up in the middle ear or in the lungs. There they strike… !
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column - Cliffhangers, September 2012
The Fungal Plague
With the summer storm comes death. The freshening wind has blown a single spore of a rust fungus on a plant leaf. There it takes a rest and waits for the rain. When the humidity finally reaches 100 percent, it germinates and begins its deadly work… !
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column – The Fungal Plague, August 2012
Blades of Steel
Grass is the staple food for many organisms ranging from mammals, insects, and even fungi. That does not mean that grass makes an especially good fodder. Quite the contrary is the case. It does everything possible to spoil the appetite of the herbivores… !
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column – Blades of Steel, July 2012
Army of Micro-Robots
What appears to be lined up lollipops, are in fact micro-robots. They are only half a millimetre in diameter. At the moment they are still fixed with two short arms on a silicon plate. But as soon as the laser cuts them off, they are ready for their first mission… !
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column – Army of Micro-Robots, June 2012
The pollen grains of most conifers possess two inflatable bags. They look like little parachutes and for a long time researchers have thought that they represent some kind of flying aid… !
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column – Flying Submarine, May 2012
Contact Adhesive in the Blood
The human body is basically a fluid-filled cavity. Thus its greatest enemies are sharp objects and knives. If they bore into the fine network of blood vessels under the skin, we literally run out. But not for long. Just ten seconds after an injury, an automatic process starts that seals the hole within a few minutes. We all know it as ‘blood clotting’… !
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column – Contact Adhesive in the Blood, April 2012
Sperm in Concrete
Nothing is more important for flowering plants than their sperm. They are the carriers of the genetic makeup and its protection is essential in the struggle for life. In order to guard their sperm, the plants pack them into tiny containers, which are generally known as ‘pollen’… !
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column – Sperm in Concrete, March 2012
The Mechanical Muscle
My grandfather was a mechanical engineer. He could spend hours poring over a technical problem. At some point he sat down at his drawing board and drew the solution with a sharp pencil and a ruler. However, his favourite problem he had never solved: How do you build a muscle… ?
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column – The Mechanical Muscle, February 2012
The Ruminant Fly
You are looking at a fly’s tongue. The wave-like structures in the upper half are part of a pad that resembles the floor brush of a vacuum cleaner. The lower part of the image displays the beginning of the ‘hose’. So we take the perspective of a food particle that is about to be sucked in… !
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column – The Ruminant Fly, January 2012
David versus Goliath
Gastric cancer is one of the most common and often fatal cancers: Every third cancer death is due to gastric carcinoma. The main risk factor for the development of gastric cancer is chronic infection with an (almost) invisibly small pathogen – the stomach bacterium Helicobacter pylori…. !
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column – David versus Goliath, September 2011
Understanding Muscular Disease
Congenital muscular dystrophies are severe diseases of the skeletal muscle, often characterized by heterogeneous genetic origin and early onset. Mutation of the gene encoding laminin-alpha-2, which plays a major role in the organization and function of the muscle basement membrane, leads to severe form of muscular dystrophy and patients often have trouble with the breathing and cannot stand or walk…
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column – Understanding Muscular Disease, August 2011
Water repellent surfaces are under thorough study and various examples can be found throughout the plant and animal kingdom. Particularily the characteristics of waxy surfaces are well known. By preventing water from touching the whole surface, elastic hair-like structures are responsible for the famous self-cleaning properties of Lotus leafs (Nelumbo nucifera)… !
Continue reading: Atlant’s Column – Superhydrophobic Surfaces, June 2011