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The Kid Should See This

Making Waves: What Happens When We Zoom in on Art?

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Waves aren’t just in the ocean. “Waves are a disturbance that moves through space and time, bringing energy from one place to another.” Sound travels in waves. Light moves in waves, too. From this MetKids Microscope video from The Metropolitan Museum of Art:

“The light we see is a type of electromagnetic radiation, sending energy from a source—like the sun—to every surface it can touch. When the waves are shorter, they form more energetic radiation, like ultraviolet light, x-rays, or gamma rays. Less energetic radiation has longer waves, like radio waves, which can stretch more than 60 miles long from peak to peak!”

The Great Wave, animated for MetKids

“When you look at an image like this one, based on the nineteenth-century Japanese woodblock print The Great Wave, waves of visible light are bouncing off the image and eventually landing in your eye. But what if you need to take a closer look? You could take this picture and put it under a microscope.”

With an electron microscope, researchers can not only see the materials used in a painting, but they can also understand more about the processes and chemical compositions of a painting’s culture and historical period. In the second half of the video, they zoom in with multiple microscopes on Saint Martin Offering the Wine Cup to the Priest, an embroidered roundel from the 1430s.

Saint Martin Offering the Wine Cup to the Priest
Make your own microscope with a wide-mouthed clear jar and plastic lid, a small piece of clear plastic, tape, cardboard, foil, a piece of thread, and The Met’s instructions.

homemade microscope
There’s more to learn with MetKids at

Watch these related microscope videos next:
• LEGOscope: A DIY microscope made out of LEGO
Turn your smartphone into a digital microscope for ~$10
• Microscopically reweaving a 1907 painting
• Examining Tutankhamun’s Golden Coffin

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