â€œIt does give me a great deal of pleasure to do science. For another thing [laughs] I guess I don’t know what else to do.â€
For Shinya Inoue, not knowing what else to do has been a real boon to the science of biology. Welcome to Pulse of the Planetâ€™s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside.
â€œFrom the beginning of the 1900s, people using microscopes to look at cells and diseases and so on. In order to do that, they had to kill and stain cells, primarily, because there was very little contrast in the living cell, and one couldn’t see what was going on very well.â€
Shinya Inoue is a Distinguished Scientist at of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. He began building microscopes in Japan during World War II. Spare parts were hard to come by, and so his first scope was put together using discarded military supplies.
â€œI found this machine gun base and used that to tie microscope parts onto.â€
Inoueâ€™s microscopes used polarized light, which allowed scientists to study living cells at the molecular level.
â€œWell, with Polaroid sunglasses, what you do is to cut out the glare from horizontal surfaces. That is because horizontal surfaces reflect polarized light. Now, if you use two of those and cross them with each other, then light is extinguished until you again put something in between. If you put a living cell in there, if the system is sensitive enough, then you can again get brightness.â€
Before the advent of Inoueâ€™s microscopes, scientists could only study a dividing cell by killing and staining it. Inoueâ€™s technique allowed for the viewing of live cells to see how the molecules line up and do their jobs as the cell divides.
Pulse of the Planetâ€™s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. Iâ€™m Jim Metzner.