One aspect that makes microbiology both exciting and at times difficult is that it studies things too small to see. Humans are not familiar with the scales relevant to microbes and therefore it is hard to imagine the ecological challenges they face (compare this to biologists studying other mammals and you get my point). Of course there is a whole range of spatial scales relevant to a bacterium. The cell itself is around a micrometer (0.000001 m), the viruses that infect it are around ten times smaller (0.0000001 m), the molecules it excretes are nanometers (or hundreds of picometers) (0.000000001 m) and the scales over which they glide over surfaces are again at the more familiar millimeter or even centimeter scale (0.01 m). With now ex-colleagues at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology I am writing a review paper on micro-scale interactions between bacteria in soil. I’ll highlight that work when it is published hopefully soon, but for now I just want to link to a great website allowing you to zoom from the scale of quantum foam to the entire universe and everything inbetween: The Scale of the Universe!
Via ex-Oxford colleague Tiffany Taylor, now at the University of Reading, who also runs a wordpress blog: cell to self, check it out!