Forams up close reveal jewels at the beach

Greenberg's sand grains, tiny shells called forams of foraminifera

Greenberg’s sand grains, tiny shells called forams of foraminifera

Drop some sand under a high-definition, three-dimensional light microscope and you’ll never look at a beach the same way again. Magnified 250 times, the tiny grains are shockingly gorgeous! Brilliantly colored or crystal-clear, the origins of each speck emerges; spiral shell fragments, petrified corals, gem-like minerals or crumbs of volcanic rock.

Greenberg's sand grains, tiny shells called forams of foraminifera

Photographer and scientist Gary Greenberg has devoted his life to revealing the secret beauty of nature. “My real passion in life is to explore the intersection between art and science”, he says in a TedX talk.

Greenberg's sand grains, tiny shells called forams of foraminifera

Creating the images is a painstakingly lengthy process, first photographing the grains from several angles then combining them into a single composition using computer software.

“It is incredible to think when you are walking on the beach you are standing on these tiny treasures,” says Greenberg.

Greenberg's sand grains, tiny shells called forams of foraminifera

Greenberg began his career as photographer and filmmaker, then went on to earn a doctorate in biomedical research. He’s also an inventor of specialized microscopes, for which he was issued eighteen US patents. And on top of it all, he’s authored a book called A Grain of Sand Nature’s Secret Wonder, which features these images and many more.

Greenberg's sand grains, tiny shells called forams of foraminifera

“Each grain of sand represents a moment captured in time.  It is somewhere on its path from its creation to erosion and recycling back into the earth. When we walk along the beach we are strolling atop millions of years of biological and geological history,”  he says on his website.

Greenberg's sand grains, tiny shells called forams of foraminiferaYou can order prints of Greenberg’s astounding images on his website (link here).

Too much eye candy? Need a factual takeaway?  People who collect sand as a hobby are known as arenophiles. Those who study foraminifera, also called forams are heros. They can help researchers figure out if a desalination plant is releasing heavy metals

 

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