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Chapter 8. Environmental Modeling > Modeling Microscopic Worlds

Modeling Microscopic Worlds

In this section, we will examine a battle on a microscopic scale: the attack of the macrophage! One of the most dramatic images seen in biology textbooks is that of a macrophage (a type of white blood cell) using its filopodia (tentacle-like arms) to reach out and grab bacteria it then devours. Macrophages are the guardians that protect our bodies from internal threats like bacteria, tiny parasites, and other foreign invaders.

Images of cells can be taken with a variety of lab instruments, such as light microscopes, scanning electron microscopes, and so on. Each type of instrument reveals unique data about a cell and also produces its own distinctive visual look. The look we will be shooting for here is that created by a scanning electron microscope (SEM). SEMs use electrons rather than light waves to create an image. Surface features too small to be detailed by light waves are easily captured by the much smaller electrons, which are beamed onto the surface of the cell and bounce off onto a collection plate.


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