“The total number of stars in the Universe is greater than all the grains of sand on all the beaches on the planet Earth.” – Carl Sagan
While walking along the shoreline, you may pay more attention to the crashing waves than the sand beneath your feet, but when viewed beneath a microscope, each individual grain of sand is a like a precious stone just waiting to be discovered.
When photographer, inventor, and scientist Dr. Gary Greenberg took his high-powered light microscope and photographed sand from beaches around the world, he unearthed an intricate realm of colorful coral fragments, microscopic shells and the magnificent beauty of grains that resemble exotic gems and minerals.
Our eyes have their limits (experts believe the naked eye is only capable of viewing objects as small as 0.1 millimeters). Luckily, we have microscopes to be able to magnify sand 250 times–revealing a magical world where everyday, normal things become amazing discoveries.
Dr. Greenberg has devoted his life to exposing the clandestine beauty of nature by exploring the science and exquisiteness of the sand grain–turning his research into works of art.
“Sand is basically the material you get when you get a breakdown in rocks, when the rocks weather and decompose over hundreds of thousands and millions of years,” said Jeff Williams, senior scientist emeritus for the U.S. Geological Survey Woods Hole Science Center. “The sand on each beach is like a fingerprint — it’s unique to the particular beach where you find it. The sand’s unique composition, color and grain size are a result of the source rocks it came from, but also a result of coastal processes that modify the sand over long periods of time.”
After taking a glimpse at some of Dr. Greenberg’s work, you will probably never look at sand the same way ever again. He is also currently studying moon sand from all six Apollo landings brought to Earth 40 years ago.
Sand truly is one of the most interesting things to observe under a microscope. In fact, it could be said, that to some extent, sand is a fingerprint for the location it comes from.