With this photo I tried to capture the wonder of discovery that was so apparent in Robert Hooke’s Micrographia and in science in the eighteenth century in general. I used my cellphone camera to take this picture with the help of a focussing lens taken out of a laser pointer (picture). Using my camera enhanced with tweezers and elastic bands, I set off about my house taking extremely close-up pictures of whatever I could find. I took pictures of fruit, plants, soap, napkins, and dozens of other things around the house, but my favourite is the one that you see here: salt. The two pieces of salt in the photo are from different sources: one is from a regular shaker, and the other is from a salt grinder. To the naked eye, they looked about the same, but I was amazed at how different they looked through my camera and its extra lens. The perfect square of the salt from the shaker contrasted incredibly with the crystalline structure of the grinder salt.
I think there is something to be said here about the importance of perception, especially considering the lens created a circular aperture in the picture reminiscent of an eye, but what is important for me was the process of taking these pictures. Like Hooke, I used an imperfect technology to look at the common objects that surround us through a completely different lens (pun intended), and it was fascinating. While I couldn’t muster up the courage to look at dead insects like Hooke, I did discover tiny details about the most mundane objects in my house that changed the way I look at them. Hooke’s time must have been a truly exciting era to live in, when incredible discoveries like the microscope were happening seemingly every day.
We continue to make discoveries that rival, if not surpass, those of the eighteenth century, but I believe they affect us less for two main reasons. The first reason is that we have simply come to expect it. We are constantly inundated with new and exciting discoveries, but for the most part they pass by uncelebrated by the masses because there are just so many of them. Secondly, a lot of the discoveries made in modern times are so advanced that it’s tough to appreciate them in the way that we can appreciate the first close-up look at a flea without a lifetime of education on the subject. Either way, the ingenuity of humans continues to amaze me, and I can’t wait to see what else will be discovered in my lifetime.