I spend a lot of time imaging my samples. It is one of the routine characterizations I perform on my samples. It usually doesn’t take that long to get an image using a conventional SEM (scanning electron microsope) measurement, but if I’m looking for a specific surface feature or morphology, then I can spend hours measuring a single sample.
Just imagine, I am looking for a surface feature that’s 100 nm x 100 nm in area, which is significantly smaller compared to the total surface area of the sample, which is about 10,000,000,000 times larger! It would be like looking for a speck the size of 0.1 mm x 0.1 mm in area over a floor area of 100 sq. m. Fortunately, as long as there are dense enough specks scattered all over the floor, there is always a good chance of finding one even if you look into a smaller area. In my samples, there is usually a good distribution of surface features over the sample, which ensures that I get to image one at various locations. But of course, it is always good practice to image several locations on the surface to get a feel of the “typical” representation of the sample.
As anyone familiar with SEM knows, focusing on a featureless, flat surface of a thin film sample is a daunting task. So it always helps to zoom in on specks of dust or whatever debris on the sample first. In other words, specks on the sample allows you to focus more easily. Once you focus on the speck, then you can easily focus on the other areas of interest.
So much like in real life!
No matter how hard we try to live seamless, smooth lives, there will always be specks in the form of people, events, and things. As they are specks, they do not necessarily ruin our lives, but we would rather do away with them if we could. Examples of specks? An annoying email. Senseless discussions. Unwanted advice. People eager for praise. Cold, uncaring friends.
But what if they’re there for a reason? What if, just like SEM imaging, those little, annoying bits and pieces in your life are somehow there so that you can focus on what’s truly important? Specks can be annoying if you let them, but at the end of the day, it’s still your life that matters, not them. Specks can think and say and do what they will, but that’s all there is to them: devices allowing you to focus on higher things.
I know I’m making a stretch by comparing life to a mundane, routine work on the lab bench, but thinking of it this way actually made my day.