There are plenty of museums to visit in Amsterdam. You can see ancient art, contemporary art, objects of everyday life of the past, objects of everyday life in the present. There are museums of funny things, beautiful things, historical things, useful things, but also invisible things.
Yes, Amsterdam has a museum of invisible things! Micropia is a new museum displaying all sorts of microbes. I visited last weekend, and it’s awesome!
Near the entrance of the museum, a large evolutionary tree is projected on the wall, introducing all the microbes and the diversity of microbes. What follows can best be described as a very interactive microbiology lesson, including peeking through microscopes, looking at all the micro organisms in your own body, and seeing fungi grow.
You can also watch real scientists at work. The scientists, however, but don’t have multi-coloured flashing lights, and the only zooming in you can do is by stepping closer. So, they cannot really compete with the microbes they are studying.
As with every museum, of course, there is a take home message: microbes are everywhere, there are a lot of them, we cannot live without them. And don’t forget to buy a new toothbrush regularly.
At ScienceOnline 2014 I learned from Meg Lowman & Rebecca Tripp during a very impressive keynote presentation about a research program to study tardigrades in forest canopies that was specifically focused on making field research accessible to individuals with ambulatory disabilities. Not only was the research fascinating (water bears are EVERYWHERE), but it also represents an important effort to help the social practice of knowledge building that we call science actually include the diversity of our society.
Tardigrades are within the Superphylum Ecdysozoa and about 400 species make up the Tardigrada phylum. These 8-legged segmented bits of awesomeness live in water and are the some of the most extreme of all the extremophiles. Tardigrades are able to survive near absolute zero (-459F) all the way up to 304F.