Origins: From Jungle to Lab.  The Story of Life's Complexity
Pinned Insect
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The Lab's Most Powerful Eye. Live @ Exploratorium. Sunday, Nov.3, 2002, 1p.m.

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What can a lab in London tell us about a jungle in Belize? Find out when we broadcast live from the scanning electron microscope (SEM) of London’s Natural History Museum. You'll see the same stunning images the scientists see, and learn how this powerful tool is changing the way they do their work.

Researchers use the Natural History Museum's SEM to study all kinds of specimens collected from locations across the globe. Using a beam of electrons, the SEM can magnify specimens hundreds of thousands of times, and provide valuable information about the chemical structure of everything from insects to minerals.

On our tour, you'll learn how the SEM is being used in palynology, the study of pollen, as palynologist Peter Stafford and microscopist Chris Jones examine specimens collected in Belize. By comparing pollen from different species, these researchers help trace the evolutionary relationships between many of the jungle's plants. To do this work, Peter and Chris use the same combination of observation and critical thinking that Darwin used, now brought to new heights with the help of modern technology.

image: scanning electron microscope
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Origins From Jungle to Lab: The Story of Life's Complexity Origins Exploratorium From Jungle to Lab