[Documentation] Rock vs Cell

(Lindsay Petley-Ragan) #1


How different do living and non-living things look at the microscopic level? Can you tell if a structure is a crystal or a cell? What would happen if we mixed and mashed electron microscopy images from living and non-living structure?

We wanted to mix and compare electron microscopy images from crystal structures in rocks and peripheral nerves in fruit flies in order to create hybrid images of living and non living samples.

We also wanted to allow users to play with the structures of cells and rocks and design their own electron microscopy images by simply drawing a few lines.

Finally, we wanted to bring the black-and-white images to life with a bit of movement!



  • electron microscopy images of crystal structures from Norway
  • electron microscopy images of peripheral nerves of fruit flies
  • Pix2Pix
  • R
  • Processing - to make animation
  • MatLab
  • OpenCV
  • PCL - point cloud library
  • Shell
  • Paperspace
  • AmazonAWS


First, a database was generated from the library of images using Python and Shell. There was a database of about 1000 images generated for two categories: rocks and cells. These databases were used to train the Pix2Pix software so that the user can draw simple lines in Pix2Pix and the output is a simulated electron microscopy image.

The web interface was built to allow the user to choose a random portion of a cell and rock image to mash together. The website was built using R and MatLab.

Hybrid images were created using Processing and represent a mix of living and non-living structures allowing the viewer to compare what is similar and what is indistinguishable between living and non-living samples.

Software was trained on the hybrid images to allow for the extrapolation of simple lines from either rock or cell samples. These lines could be coloured to represent whether they originated from rock or cell samples.