Caption Chem

Mary Courtney,  Artist in Residence in the Chemistry Department at Warwick University, invites you to give your creative muscles a workout – and come up with captions for these rarely seen microscopic images of the world beyond ordinary sight.

The captions will be combined with images of the chemical miniscule, in a short film, “Planet Biscuit – Into the Micronosphere”, which will be out on YouTube in December and screened at the University of Warwick in the autumn. We do hope that responses from Outside In can be part of this.

The images here are just some I’ve been collecting from researchers in the Chemistry Department over these­­­­­ past few months, as part of a project, “Verse Reaction”, that is looking at Chemistry as Art. Microscopic images, from Paracetamol and Nickel, to kidney stones and dirt on diamond, things that I thought I knew, are transformed into the unfamiliar strange at the level of the very tiny. They are asking to be named. To be called something beyond their official chemical designation. Can your imagination help?

Is the Paracetamol crystal here a beautiful glowing ingot, a misty window, or a portal into the unknown? …. there is nothing in its microscopic shape that suggests the ordinary boring white tablet. What is it you see?

As well as being unsettling, chemistry images at this level offer the chance to make things up. Our brains can’t help but make suggestions, maybe hint at stories, as we try to make meaning out of something we’ve never seen. What on earth is it?

Can you take some time to share your thoughts – and give a caption title to some or all of these images? Any contributors who wish to be named will of course be named in the credits. Let us know. We’re looking forward to seeing what you see!

Ada Della Pia and colour by Mary Courtney Iron atoms on a molecular species copper surface

Image 1

An anatomy of thinking...maybe by Mary Courtney

Image 2

Calcium sulphate crystal by Emma Ravenhill

Image 3

EBSD on grains of boron doped diamond Danquing Lui

Image 4


Image 5

Mary Courtney untitled

Image 6

Paracetamol crystal by Maria Adobes Vidal

Image 7

Ruthenium oxide nanoparticles by Minkyung Kang

Image 8

Sweat experiment by Lee Simcox

Image 9

xy trace of spiral scanning for electrochemical image by Minkyung Kang

Image 10

The Leverhulme Trust funded project “Verse Reaction” is a  Collaboration between Mary Courtney and Chemistry Professor Patrick Unwin from the Chemistry Department at Warwick University. The Film “Planet Biscuit – Into the Micronosphere” will be made in collaboration with Laurence Campbell.

9 Comments about this

  1. Katy Carpenter

    Image 1: Guns in the water
    Image 2: Short on staff in the cake factory
    Image 4: The weather forecast for today
    Image 6: Sewing machine manual (instructions in red)
    Image 8: Hip replacement
    Image 9: Free willy

  2. Susan

    1) Stratum disruption.

    2) Senses continuum

    3) Dispersal glare,

    4) Psychotic vista

    5) Thermal hop

    6) Amalgam Inconclusive

    7) Lucid flight

    8) Osseous turmoil

    9) aquasend

    10) Plot moiré

  3. mary courtney

    What the images are really…
    Image 1 – is Iron atoms on molecular species copper surface – by Ada Della Pia and coloured by Mary Courtney
    Image 2 – drawing by Mary Courtney
    Image 3 – Calcium sulphate crystal – by Emma Ravenhill
    Image 4 – EBSD on grains of boron doped diamond – by Danquing Lui
    Image 5 – Furosemide crystals – by Maria Adobes Vidal
    Image 6 – drawing by Mary Courtney with lab whiteboard background
    Image 7 – Paracetamol crystal – by Maria Adobes Vidal
    Image 8 – Ruthenium Oxide nanoparticles – by Mimkyung Kang
    Image 9 – Sweat experiment – by Lee Simcox
    Image 10 – xy trace of spiral scanning for electrochemical image – by Minkyung Kang

  4. stephen spain

    image 1 : island archipelago through heat-sensors after dark;
    image 2 : a Courtney original from her Dark Mechanics period;
    image 3 : afro bald spot;
    image 4 : it is what it is;
    image 5 : the sweat of a nightmare – looking through the keyhole into hell;
    image 6 : Courtney original – severed connections;
    image 7 : window to the void;
    image 8: the Andromeda strain;
    image 9: a xenomorph;
    image 10: x axis= my income/ y axis= my expenditure.

  5. stephen spain

    Image 1 island archipelago through heat sensing device
    Image 2 a courtney original from her dark mechanics period
    image 3 afro bald spot
    image 4 it is what it is
    image 5 sweat of a nightmare looking through the keyhole of the door into hell
    image 6 severed connections
    image 7 a neurotic black hole
    image 8 Andromeda strain
    image 9 zenomorph
    image 10 x axis my income y axis my expenditure

  6. peter treanor

    Yes those images got me thinking, so here are a few ideas that sprang to mind

    Image 1, looked like crazy space invaders or broken purple guns to me . so maybe Purple Pistols / Pixels or Pastel Pistols or Pistols at Dawn or Purple Pastel Pistol Pixels at Dawn But not Drawn or something.
    The blue background seems like the sky so that made me think dawn.

    Image 2. line drawing , face , microscope. made me think A Line Of My Crow Scope ( some sort of mix of microscope and line of coke ( it looks like lines of coke it being white on black an all) and me and my and eye/ I ) , or Eyeliner or Labyrinth ( microscopes , labs – lab er in th(e) etc)
    the line drawing, that looks like a labyrinth or maze from above, and think ” In the Lab ( or labyrinth) of A-maze-me(a)nt ” would be good,

    image 3 looks like an eye with a door in it made by trees . Eyedoorable or Idorable Trees or Forest. or I Adore The Trees

    ! 4 is horrible and shouldnt have a name. Sorry but i feel very strongly about this! 🙂

    I 5 no inspiration im affraid

    6 is lovely but i dont get any names and 7 nameless too

    i 8. Is lovely is like a japanese painting. Maybe a bit like cherry blossom? which is called Sakura in japanese apparently

    no 9 no inspiration and

    n 10 well Graphic Inspiral Inspirational Art. or Plotting the Waves. Plotting the Waves of Interference(s). Or In Spiral Measures.
    I like the last one

    Had fun thinking about those , thanks for posting them

  7. mary courtney

    This is why I’m not a scientist!
    Made an error in naming Image 1 – my apologies…..what it really is: “Iron atoms and molecular species on a copper surface”.
    Am enjoying seeing your responses. Thank-you. Some great ideas here!

  8. Charlie Cunningham

    Image 1 – Kissing, skidding and generally cavorting
    Image 2 – Aloof smeller with a bit of tickle
    Image 3 – Iron filing invitation
    Image 4 – Discarded countries swept into a corner
    Image 5 – Flourescent headless diver
    Image 6 – Alien flagellar analysis
    Image 7 – Beauty enters the atmosphere
    Image 8 – Frogspawn coral
    Image 9 – Alien 4 – Evil seed jelly Nightmares
    Image 10 – Slinky grafart.

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