Being small like a tardigrade - a demonstration
According to the typical questions by tv producers the average tv consumer might be terribly dumb
or, positively speaking, refreshingly childish. A typical question by the producers is e.g.:
are you able to recommend some kind of visual comparison with an everyday object in order
to explain the tinyness of those tardigrades to the (dumb) viewer? Normally this discussion will be settled by means
of a suggested comparison between the tardigrade body length and the diameter of a human hair, or simply the diameter of a salt grain.
But even then the producers tend to suspect that the viewers might lack the respective basic understanding.
The remains of those didactic discussions have found their way into our heads - and for
this reason we cannot hinder our brains to silently seek out for fashionable tardigrade size comparison objects.
In this context we are proudly presenting our most recent "tardigrade ruler"
acquisition, an old "MIKROCHIP" pin by the German BOSCH company:
Bosch microchip pin, 1980s. Overall length 44 mm
On closer inspection it becomes apparent that the BOSCH company
actually used a real microchip in this PR product.
The mounting plate measures 12.5 mm x 15 mm, the microchip
2.8 mm x 4.1 mm
By means of the bare eye the microchip basically appears as a silvery surface area,
possibly with some coating defects. But, no problem, we do have a microscope for this kind of object!
The microchip surface area, as seen under the incident light microscope.
This microchip is said to have been the brain of the BOSCH "ABS" vehicle brake control - some decades ago.
And now we are moving on to the tardigrade ruler function! How big
might a typical tardigrade appear when positioned upon the chip? Just have a guess!
Like the red symbol on the left side of the chip below?
No, a typical tardigrade, in particular a marine tardigrade would need only a tiny
fraction of the microchip. We might easily place it on one of those silvery (0,2 mm x 0,2 mm) "islands"
of the microchip surface area. The black arrow is pointing towards the "true size" tardigrade placeholder:
The small red dot close to the end of
the black arrow is symbolizing a Batillipes tardigrade in its actual size.
We are well aware that those tiny conductive structures
on the microchip are demonstrating impressive technical and cultural achievements of the late 20th century.
Nevertheless the structures are looking rather coarse when keeping in mind that
the tardigrade is a multisensor self-sustaining creature, thus being able to feed,
to sense, to move and to have sex with partners which might live many sand grains away.
Okay, in the meantime the electrical conducting paths produced by man have become much smaller, down to
possibly 10 nanometers, but still we are far away from the ability to build
a machine with the capabilities of a tardigrade.
© Text, images and video clips by
Martin Mach (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Water Bear web base is a licensed and revised version of
the German language monthly magazine
Style and grammar amendments by native speakers are warmly welcomed.