9 Normal Things That Look Trippy Under a Microscope
The world is full of magic, it's just that a lot of it isn't visible without special tools. Fortunately, microscopes exist. Because when you take normal, everyday things and magnify them by a factor of about a bajillion, it's like you're suddenly in a whole new world where the rivers run with LSD and every crop is magic mushrooms.
Don't believe us? Just take an (extremely close-up) look at ...
Also known as the most boring freaking landscape possible. But throw a few grains under a microscope and ...
That's right, your beach thong is encrusted with valuable gems.
Holy shit. Just look at that translucent little guy in the center, with its perfect little swirl. And the one at the bottom with its microscopic tiger stripes, never to be beheld except maybe by some unappreciative dick of a sand crab.
See, that's the thing about sand -- it's not just a bunch of tiny little rocks, it's a bunch of tiny little everything. In that picture, you're seeing little bits that have scraped off of the shells of sea creatures, some dried up plankton, coral, bits of minerals and who knows what else. Here's some sand from a lake in Minnesota:
And here's what you'll have stuck between your toes if you walked around a beach in Namibia (the pink and red stuff is garnet):
Sandcastles are much more desirable real estate than we expected.
Maybe you'll be a little more appreciative the next time you get some of this stuff stuck in your ass crack.
Aspirin takes care of your headaches, but it certainly doesn't do it by soothing the areas of your brain responsible for aesthetic appreciation. Even as close up as the above image, aspirin is still just a bunch of boring white pills. But zoom in ...
Anybody got some aspirin? We need a few after staring at this for a while. It looks like a crystalline flower straight out of Avatar. We have a sudden urge to grow a ponytail, jack it into that thing and download some brain apps from our ancestors (or some bullshit like that).
Seriously, anybody got some aspirin?
It looks so innocent for a substance that has caused so much trouble. Asbestos was once thought to be a wonder material in the construction of buildings, but now is infamous for causing cancer and other illnesses in millions of people who breathed the particles. How can something that looks like a coughed up hairball actually damage our lungs?
Well, if you get closer, it actually does look like something that could shred your insides:
Man, now we feel bad for daring the intern to eat a handful of this stuff.
No, that's not a macro shot of the crystal caves that we've covered before, or Superman's Fortress of Solitude after a weekend bender (and on a completely unrelated note -- just how much alcohol would it take to send the Man of Steel on a bender?). Those are the jagged microscopic fibers that leap down your trachea and cancer-punch your lungs the second you mess with this stuff.
Everyone's favorite drug is often conveniently blamed for doing weird things to one's vision when hunting for random sexual partners in a crowded nightclub. But when you take your drink of choice and zoom way the hell in, that's when things really start to get trippy. Take a pina colada, for example, and see what it looks like on a microscope slide ...
This must be what it looks like when Jimmy Buffett closes his eyes.
Whoa. So deep down, every pina colada is like staring at peacock feathers after dropping, like, all the acid. We're surprised we've never pissed out Joseph's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat after overindulging on these.
You might think there's some computerized color enhancement at play here, but that's actually a photograph taken by BevShots, which achieved the effect by allowing the drink to dry on a microscope slide, shining some natural light onto it and taking an extreme close-up with a plain old 35 mm camera.
Let's look at a few more. Say you're not into the froufrou drinks, regarding yourself as more of a good old-fashioned beer man. Well, even a good old Irish stout gets a lot less manly when you get up close and personal enough:
Faith and Begorra!
What, not artsy enough for you? We've got you covered, because magnifying The Dude's favorite drink, a white Russian, looks like this:
And while that looks like some kind of experimental artwork from the '70s, a margarita ...
... is channeling Georgia O'Keeffe.
We're honestly surprised by how beautiful all of these are. Knowing science, we were really expecting something creepy to pop in its freaky head, like maybe a drink that looks like a group of soulless eyes boring their way right past your eyeballs and straight on through the back of your skull or something. Hey, what's a vodka tonic look like?
It's the only drink that judges you while you sip.
Goddammit, science. Well, shit, if alcohol looks like this, what do we find if we zoom in on ...
For something that has had such widespread effects on our society, including inspiring the invention of Coca-Cola and indirectly causing thousands of men to wear white jackets and no socks in the '80s, drugs sure don't look like much. But when they put them under the microscope ...
Now that's more like what we'd expect heroin to look like. Zoom in enough and you've just recreated about half the covers of every techno album ever made.
But not all drugs look quite so bland in their normal, non-magnified state, right? Let's reach right into Breaking Bad and snatch out a rock of crystal meth. (It's important to note that, for any Cracked readers who happen to work in law enforcement, we're talking strictly figuratively here.)
"I (Psychonaught) created this work entirely by myself." -- possibly the least surprising attribution on Wikipedia.
Huh. Yeah, it's actually kind of pretty. Give it a nice cut, polish it up and pop it into a ring setting, and you've got the perfect gift for your supermodel-thin, dentally challenged bride-to-be. But pop it under that same microscope as the heroin ...
... and you've just covered the other half of all the techno albums.
But don't let us mislead you into thinking that only mind-altering substances are trippy when viewed close up. Here's some vitamin C, for instance:
Now we can party and fight scurvy at the same time.
You have tons of this stuff in your house, even if you don't have actual bottles labeled "zinc oxide" sitting around. It's a common ingredient in everything from breakfast cereal to medicine, from concrete to sunscreen. And despite being fancy enough to have both a "z" and an "x" in its name, zinc oxide is just another plain white powder.
Which is too bad, considering that when you zoom in to the nanoparticle level, zinc oxide looks like this:
So that's where Everlasting Gobstoppers come from.
Man, it's a real shame that our human eyeballs are so shitty, because we can't think of a single instance where coating a scantily clad beachgoer in mesmerizing purple flowers wouldn't be an improvement.
Polio is the terrifying virus that ruined countless lives and made work way more difficult for FDR's photographers. With effects ranging from paralysis to death, the polio epidemic had Americans seriously shitting their pants by day and having iron-lung-filled nightmares by night, until Jonas Salk released a vaccine in 1955. It's kind of weird to think that the whole time, we were fighting this:
Awwww! Wook at the wittle pink puffball! We could just hug it all day. This cute little fella is so adorable, we want to adopt it and name it Pauly and buy it a little collar with its new name engraved on the tag. What's that, wittle Pauly? You want to come home and live with us? Well of course you can! What's the harm in that?
You've probably never given much thought to cigarette paper before, and for good reason. After all, it's just paper, right? It's the stuff wrapped inside the paper that's important. Well, actually ...
OK, we're calling bullshit on this one. We know damn well that's not cigarette paper -- it's really some painstakingly CGI'd Star Wars movie set or something. We're sure some furry midgets are about to jump out from behind those crystal spires at any moment.
Except that totally is cigarette paper. Those blue crystals are actually an additive that helps keep the cigarette lit, because they release oxygen when burned. But we'll be damned if it doesn't look like Shelob should be hiding out in there somewhere, just biding her time until she can make a tasty hobbit meal out of Frodo -- and probably looking forward to enjoying a nice smoke afterward.
Dust is also underappreciated on the whole -- for example, dust is vital in the formation of clouds, and thus for the existence of rain. Also ... well, that's mostly it, but that's pretty big, goddammit. But close up, it looks fake as hell.
Yes, before you ask, the color was added after the fact (electron microscopes don't see in color). Still, look at it. Shake out your keyboard and you've just created the ultimate Honey, I Shrunk the Kids obstacle course. But wait, what's that trying to nonchalantly hide out behind some neon pubic hairs toward the top of the frame?
Oh man, ftaghn this.
Oh God, whose idea was this? We have a feeling that tonight in our nightmares, micro-Cthulhu and his little orange friend Spike are going to be chasing our miniature selves through a keyboard labyrinth. And there is no Escape key.
When not being continually saddened by Google Images searches, Evan V. Symon can be found on Facebook.
For more tiny things that are amazing upon closer examination, check out 8 Amazing Works of Art You Need a Microscope to Appreciate and 12 Things You'll Wish You'd Never Seen Under a Microscope.