Afternoon Snack 9.27.12

This week on Afternoon Snack: get up close (and we mean really close) and personal with your food, and learn what bacon, corn, and GMOs have to do with each other.

Electron microscope photo of a shrimp tail

Artist Caren Alpert is imaging familiar food items with an electron microscope, and the effect is wholly alien. From the artists’ statement:

I’ve made a living over the last decade capturing mostly recognizable images of food. Now I want to show what is there, but what we never actually see: landscapes, patterns and textures that ignite a completely different response from the viewer.

Photographs taken with electron microscopes have seized my interest because of their mystery and simultaneous familiarity. This medium deconstructs, abstracts, and reveals the ordinary in a riveting way. The closer the lens got, the more I saw food – and consumers of food – as part of a larger eco-system.

Electron microscope image of a kiwi seed

View the full gallery of Terra Cibus images on Alpert’s website. (via The Mary Sue)


Just throw caution to the wind, why dontcha? Image from

Have you heard yet about the impending bacon shortage? US droughts affecting corn and soybean crops have led to steep increases in feed costs, which in turn have led pig farmers to cull their herds. But there is still hope–scientists are using transgenics to develop crops that can withstands droughts. What’s that? You’re terrified of GMOs? Even though “there is no credible scientific evidence that GMOs pose a health risk”? Just try not to let your distrust of Monsanto pollute the field of science communication.


Featured image: electron microscope image of a pineapple leaf, by Caren Alpert

If you have a suggestion for an Afternoon Snack, send me a tweet @aynsavoy or send us an email and mention “Afternoon Snack!”

Anne S

Anne Sauer is an atheist with an appetite for science, good food, and making connections between the two. She is currently pursuing her MBA in Sustainable Management at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. Her favorite foods are salted caramel ice cream and chicken tikka masala. You can find her on twitter @aynsavoy.

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  1. Aww, come on. Electron micrographs are not really photographs. They are, however, beautiful and pretty fun to make. Microscopist 4 lyfe.

  2. I changed the post text to say “imaging food items” instead of “photographing,” but I’m gonna let the quote from the artist stand. Either way, yes, they’re definitely beautiful.

    My former Cocktail Lab collaborators and I wanted to make electron micrographs of different spirits and cocktails…still need to find someone who can make that happen!

  3. Hm. I bet crystalline samples would look pretty wicked.

    As for making that happen, I totally could have done that in my class. Instead, I did a project that looked into whether the scale patterns of wool fibers of different breed of domestic sheep correlated with the perceived “softness”. Booze would have been much cooler.

  4. Not much, I’m afraid. I didn’t have enough time to to the things that I wanted to like measure the thickness of the scales/how far they stuck out. I think that the differences had more to do with the thickness and crimp of the fibers. “Further research is necessary” and all that. It was pretty fun though.

  5. Anne, don’t even get me started on the anti-GMO screeds currently making the rounds on FaceBook! I am SO tired of arguing with them about the crappy and dishonest studies put forth as evidence of harm caused by GMOs. Now they are trying to pass a crap bill in CA. Knowing CA, Prop 37 will probably pass…

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