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If it moves, catch it.

If it moves, catch it

Tracking the motion of a swimming protozoan against a motley background of stationary algae, fragments of extraneous material and other obfuscating elements would be simpler if it were possible to get rid of the background. Physicist Jack Feinberg and his colleagues at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles have found a way to do just that. They have invented a "transient detection microscope" that automatically displays moving objects while editing out stationary features. A report of their work appears in the March 31 NATURE.

Unlike digital electronic systems for detecting moving objects, in which the detector subtracts a stored image from the currently visible image point by point, the USC device uses an optical system and laser light. The optics produce a light interference pattern, or hologram, recorded in a barium titanate crystal. As each new image is read into the crystal, the old is subtracted from it, leaving traces only of objects that have shifted in position.

How well the microscope works depends on the quality of the barium titanate crystal. "The device needs only milliwatts of laser power," the researchers say, "and can detect objects moving at velocities of a few micrometers per second."
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Title Annotation:transient detection microscope
Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 16, 1988
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