Brona McVittie reports :: November 2007

Sir Patrick Moore was rather perplexed when I asked him what stargazing might have to do with staring down a microscope. “You must be bonkers,” he bellowed. True enough, cell biology and astronomy are about as far removed as you can get in time and space. Yet can the untrained eye really tell the difference?

On Thursday 17th January 2008 a group of unsuspecting schoolteachers gathered at the Royal Albert Hall to learn about the Scopic project. Scopic questions our perceptions of the worlds beyond and within us by marrying together image pairs from inner and outer space. When presented with a series of astronomical and biological images and asked to identify their origins, the teachers weren’t so sure.

A cancer cell looked deceptively like a supernova remnant and one of Saturn’s moons was taken for a pollen grain from a rice plant. Slime mould cells looked like cometary knots; viruses like clouds of gas and dust from outer space; a ribbon-worm embryo like a dying star; sand grains from planet Mars like microbes in a deep-sea vent.

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