Cool picture time
January 6, 2017 5:29 PM   Subscribe

What small object do you think would be interesting to see as a CT (aka CAT scan)?

I work in a lab with a CT instrument capable of taking super high-res 3D images of the outsides and insides of pretty much anything that x-rays can go through (which means everything but large amounts of metal, basically.) The schedule has shifted such that next week is going to be EXTREMELY QUIET. I'd like to spend the time taking some data that I can turn into cool pictures and videos to put on the website, use in talks to the general public, that sort of thing. In particular I'm trying to think of things that would have some wow-factor for a non-scientist audience, but I'm having a hard time thinking of anything new that I want to try. If you had x-ray vision and a microscope, what would you want to see through? What have you always wondered about the insides of?

Some restrictions: It can be anywhere between about a grain of salt and a soda can in diameter. Preferably it would be something I could borrow, find or buy in the US without too much difficulty. It has to hold still for a few hours and withstand a hearty dose of radiation, which eliminates anything that is alive when it goes into the scanner and anything that can't be taped or glued down (I've had some disappointment with butterfly wings waving around during the scan and coming out blurry). I can zoom in to see things a few microns in size. Small amounts of metal are ok and most other materials are fair game and can be set up to have good contrast.
posted by tchemgrrl to Science & Nature (30 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Little Debbie snack cakes. Especially a Swiss Roll.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 5:38 PM on January 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

Are golf balls as interesting inside as bowling balls? Those super bouncy balls? For sure there must be some flavor of toy or ball that has an interesting core, and enough Z contrast to make it worth imaging.

A Christmas cracker or Kinderegg, unopened, might be nice to image if you want something people can relate to (that isn't a formerly-alive chick inside an egg)
posted by janell at 5:41 PM on January 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also maybe a thumb drive? I'd be interested to see the guts of a wind-up toy car or fishtank pump.
posted by janell at 5:44 PM on January 6, 2017

Fruit's what first comes to mind. Figs and bananas and pomegranates and such. There's a guy who posts MRIs of fruit and veg at Inside Insides… sounds like the resolution of your instrument might be superior?
posted by mumkin at 5:45 PM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was thinking food too: things with interesting internal structures. Unshelled walnuts. Balut. Fish heads.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:50 PM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Could you get in touch with someone at a local museum? Last weekend I checked out a show called Small Wonders, with dozens of small boxwood carvings and it featured high-Rez internal scans in the object on display.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:04 PM on January 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

The wife: 'An octopus! (I don't really understand octopus anatomy.)'

Me: A rubiks cube.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:06 PM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

A small cactus?
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:06 PM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Flowers? (Encase them in resin or plaster if that helps.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:10 PM on January 6, 2017

Seasonal: Various Girl Scout cookies? It would be interesting to see how the different component parts looked at the microscopic level.

A croissant would be really interesting!
posted by fussbudget at 7:20 PM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

An old-fashioned dial telephone, circa the 1940s.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 7:24 PM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

A gobstopper, maybe?
posted by smangosbubbles at 7:43 PM on January 6, 2017

A baseball glove, particularly a catcher's mitt.
posted by epj at 9:40 PM on January 6, 2017

A pine cone, flower bulb, acorn, or cockroach? Handgun?
posted by scrubjay at 9:49 PM on January 6, 2017

Blue cheese (or anything else where you might be able to see a mycelial network)
A passionfruit
A kiwi fruit
A Violet Crumble bar or other honeycomb candy
Boule of bread
posted by contraption at 10:11 PM on January 6, 2017

coffee beans
Brussels sprouts
posted by M. at 10:15 PM on January 6, 2017

A king cake - one with the plastic baby inside.

A turducken.
posted by ilovewinter at 10:27 PM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

microfiber cloth
Velcro fastener
knitting wool
bubble wrap
potted plant (roots!)
potato chip
credit card
car keys
a full wallet
posted by M. at 10:40 PM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

A fly.

A geode.

A diamond.

A snail.

An AA battery.
posted by artdrectr at 10:43 PM on January 6, 2017

(dead fly, etc)
posted by artdrectr at 10:45 PM on January 6, 2017

this is not my sort of thing, but there are definitely people out there that would be fascinated by scans of various sorts of poo. sorry.

I like the potted plant suggestion above! the roots, and also the insides of cacti and succulents would be really interesting.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:24 AM on January 7, 2017

Art! Sculptures, graffiti, woven art
posted by SyraCarol at 5:19 AM on January 7, 2017

I've seen CT scans of fertilised eggs which were very cool. The technician had his own chickens.

Insects are also cool. Probably a lot easier to get hold of as well.
posted by shelleycat at 6:59 AM on January 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Cocoon with an insect in it? Would be super cool to get a series of these showing the stages as it metamorphoses.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:12 AM on January 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Cell phone, iPad, or the like? Not sure how much radiation they can tolerate, though.

Pieces of meat before and after cooking (see how much cellular structure breaks down). Or vegetables, especially ones with interesting shapes like broccoli.
posted by Quietgal at 10:42 AM on January 7, 2017

High heeled shoe with a very high heel (there's metal hidden inside for stability)
Rotisserie chicken
Pencil case full of stuff
Talking teddy bear with noisebox inside
Doll that drinks water
Electric blanket or electric heating pad
Electric hair clippers or electric toothbrush
Tv remote control
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:47 PM on January 7, 2017

Also, to illustrate the concept of tomography, you could show CT scans side-by-side with ordinary photos of something that can be sliced, like an apple.
posted by Quietgal at 5:47 PM on January 7, 2017

posted by bonobothegreat at 6:40 PM on January 7, 2017

bb-8 toy
computer keyboard
rubik's cube
japanese puzzle box
music box mechanism
lightbulb (LED, incandescent) if it's safe to put these in an x-ray (I could imagine a compact fluorescent doing weird things when excited by x-rays)
skate board truck and wheels (if that's not too much metal)
posted by zippy at 12:30 PM on January 9, 2017

You may want to reach out to your local natural history museum or university biology or anthropology department for samples.
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:10 PM on January 10, 2017

« Older Computer Bag Refresh   |   How would you spread a $100 bet on the Super Bowl? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.