Johns Hopkins Magazine -- April 1998
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APRIL 1998


S C I E N C E    &    T E C H N O L O G Y

Ancient Microworlds
Photography by Norman Barker and Giraud Foster

As abstract and painterly as the images that follow may seem, they are, in fact, firmly rooted in the natural world. Through extreme magnification and creative light diffraction, photographers Norman Barker and Giraud Foster have provided a new and unusually colorful look at prehistoric fossils of dinosaur bone, ammonites (extinct mollusks), and stromatolites (algae). Barker, assistant professor of pathology and art as applied to medicine, and Foster, a longtime School of Medicine faculty member, note: "All the images are harsh reminders of the precariousness of life and the uncertainty of man's future."

Ancient stromatolites (algae) oxidized iron in seas 2.1 billion years ago. In fossilized form, they appear as swirls of red and silver.

Over millions of years, mineral deposits (yellow filaments) have replaced the spongy marrow of this Jurassic-era dinosaur bone.

Glittering ammonite: "Fool's Gold" formed when the sulfur from this Mesozoic-era mollusk decomposed and attracted iron.

Swirls of orange and yellow oxides of iron have replaced dinosaur bone during the course of fossilization.

As wood petrifies over millions of years, quartz colored by metal oxides soaks into every cavity and pore.
In the process of fossilizing, the many layers of this ancient ammonites separated, producing a rainbow of iridescences. At right, dinosaur bone is replaced by banded agate.

The fossilized tooth of a Gomphoterium, a North American ancestor of the elephant.

The rich blue hue of this ammonite can change to red, green, or yellow, depending upon the angle of light.