Photos: Bent Light from Crystals

The photo below from Discover Magazine online is of a quartz crystal as seen through a microscope that photographs the crystal’s “birefringence” or its ability to bend light that passes through it.

Source: Discover Magazine online. “The Most Psychedelic Images in Science.” By Andrew Moseman. Published January 27, 2011. http://discovermagazine.com/photos/27-the-most-psychedelic-images-in-science. Original source: M. A. Geday and A. M. Glazer / Journal of Applied Crystallography, Volume 35, Part 2. April 2002.

I can’t make heads or tails of the language or process of crystal photomicroscopy, but I was piqued by this fascinating display of light bent by a crystal. I wondered if I could find photos of the birefringence of other types of crystals as viewed through a microscope and found the following images.

Optical properties of liquid crystal phases of bent-core molecules – One phase (a) and then the same phase (b) in an applied electric field (+40V). Another phase (c) and then the same phase (d) in an applied electric field (+35V). I’m not going to pretend I understand the phases of liquid crystal (or even what a bent-core molecule is!), but I do find it cool that when an electric field is applied, more colours appear.

Source: Liquid Crystal Group, Department of Physics, University of Colorado. Liquid Crystal Textures and Phases: A Short Tutorial. http://bly.colorado.edu/lcphysics/textures/

Optical Spin-Orbit Coupling in Uniaxial Crystals (I have no idea what this means…)

Source: http://www.loma.cnrs.fr/spip.php?rubrique331

Some photos are much less symmetrical in nature.

Birefringence of mineral ash from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland – This crystalline shard of mineral dust—as seen through a microscope—fell on Sweden.

Source: Graphic design and photographic art by Robert Corkery. “Natural self-assembled photonic paintings—inspiration for a post-pointillist.” Published May 4, 2010.  http://robertwcorkery.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/waxholm-ashzeiss_0025-40x-sm.jpg

Interestingly, I came across many photos of crystals in articles related to arthritis; however, most of these articles were in medical journals and had to be bought, and I respected their copyright, but a few were available.

Synovial fluid (magnified 400x) in woman with acute monoarticular arthritis caused by crystals (the blue spherules seen here, each with a birefringent Maltese cross-like appearance)

Source: “Acute monoarticular arthritis caused by Maltese cross-like crystals.” PowerPoint Slide for Teaching. CMAJ March 15, 2005 vol. 172 no. 6 741-742. http://www.cmaj.ca/content/172/6/741/F2.expansion.html

Plate-like crystals (magnified 40x) typical of cholesterol monohydrate crystals detected in a tendon sheath in the ankle of a man with rheumatoid arthritis

Source: Curious Crystals: Chylous Arthritis in Rheumatoid Arthritis. The Journal of Rheumatology. 2010;37:1072-1073. http://ard.bmj.com/content/62/6/512.full

True-colour polarized light microscopy of different crystals: top left-glucose, top right-EDTA, bottom left-sodium phosphate, bottom right-sodium chloride

Source: Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health. Advanced Light Microscopy and Image Analysis Core. http://www.wadsworth.org/cores/alm/gallery.htm

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Touchy Subjects is owned and operated by Brenda Piquette. All information on the Touchy Subjects blog is copyright Brenda Piquette 2010 – 2012. Note: This information is provided for entertainment purposes only and should be verified for accuracy.

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This entry was posted in Health, Light, Physics, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Photos: Bent Light from Crystals

  1. Liette Ireland says:

    Wow, amazing pictures, just a little scary to think of what is actually in our bodies.

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