Review: Marty Jopson – Invisible Worlds: A Microscopic Safari

To open the Otley Science Festival the organisers had once again invited Otley’s own Marty Jopson, the BBC One Show’s resident scientist and an expert biologist. And for over an hour he kept the audience spellbound with an evening of microscopy.

Marty opened his talk looking in microscopy at spiders where we discovered that as well as their eight legs, spiders also have eight eyes. This was followed by another insect, wood lice, although as Marty told us, there is a close resemblance to crustaceans in this particular creature.

We then learned from Marty about Robert Hooke who published Micrographia, a book describing observations made with microscopes and telescopes, as well as some original work in biology. Hooke coined the term cell for describing biological organisms, the term being suggested by the resemblance of plant cells to cells of a honeycomb. On the large screen were pictures Hooke had drawn of flees and lice during his observations.

Moving on from insects, the talk then concentrated on plants looking at the barbs on stinging nettles and how formic acid is injected into a human when they brush against a clump of nettles and then we examined some pond water which contained mayflies, larvae, water flees and hydra.

There was plenty of interaction with the audience, and a young volunteer called Ben had a sample taken on a mouth swap which was then analysed under the microscope where his mouth cells could be seen containing a nucleus and various bacteria.

Marty then took a sample of his own blood which, after he had added some staining, could be seen to contain both red and white blood cells. To conclude the talk, we saw the root tip of a garlic clove which could be seen on the screen to be dividing as it grew rapidly.

This was a fascinating evening with an expert scientist delving into a world that is invisible to the naked eye. It was an evening full of stunning images and interactive demonstrations and thoroughly enjoyed by the audience.

John Burland