Week 2: Achoo!

This week in RTNN Take-out Science, we looked at all types of different pollen. Watch the episode to spot differences between pollen from pine, redbud, dandelion, and more.


Other helpful resources:

14 thoughts on “Week 2: Achoo!

    • Also, big shoutout to Dr. Holly! Thanks so much for showing us your microscopes! Can you please tell us what the smallest thing you can see with each microscope is?

      • Another good question. In general, light microscopes can see things as small as bacteria, around tens of micrometers. Electron microscopes can see things like viruses (tens of nanometers) and DNA (a few nanometers). Of course, this is all going to depend on the individual microscope, the imaging conditions, and the sample itself. Let us know if you want to know more.

  1. Thanks for sharing these amazing tools and images! This certainly will encourage others to see how incredible science is!

    • Thanks, Mrs. Kenny! Let us know if there is anything you or your students want to explore in future episodes.

    • Isn’t that neat?! We get gold on the sample using what’s called a sputter coater. Essentially, this instrument converts the gold into a plasma that deposits on the sample surface. Over time, more and more gold coats the surface. Typically, we only have a few nanometers of gold on the surface, so the samples would not be worth much at your local pawn shop. Learn more about the process here!

    • Thanks, GG. That’s a wonderful question. The way that we “see” an image in an electron microscope is by detecting electrons that come off of the sample when it is hit with the electron beam. Simply put, if there are a lot of electrons coming off of the sample in a spot that spot appears bright white; if there are no electrons coming off, that spot is black. All the different shades of grey are somewhere in between. There is no real “color” associated with this because we are detecting electrons (which have no color) and not light. If you want to know more, please visit this site.

      Scientists have begun to develop techniques to see images from the SEM in color. Learn more here.

  2. Thank you R. Holly for the awesome session! I have a better appreciation for the beauty of pollen. I will share this it’s my 6 th grade class and have them draw their favorite pollen.
    Can you reuse the gold?

    • Thanks for your question, Nancy. We typically do not use the gold once we have coated a sample. There are established methods to remove gold (or other coating material) from a sample, particularly in cases where the number of samples may be limited and the sample will be needed for other studies or uses, like a fossil on display at a museum for example. That being said, once the gold is removed it is typically not collected to be reused.

    • Light microscopes use visible light to visualize a sample. The wavelength of visible light is on the order of hundreds of nanometers, meaning we cannot see things smaller than this size with a light microscope. Electron microscopes use a beam of electrons to visualize a sample. Electrons can have a much shorter wavelength (picometer length scale) than light, which enables us to see things that are much smaller than is possible with a light microscope. To learn more, visit these two websites: Types of Microscopes and Introduction to Electron Microscopy.

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