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Light Distribution in the Focus of the 4Pi Microscope

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Since Leeuwenhoek introduced it to biology 300 years ago, the light microscope has brought about multiple discoveries, many achieved through improving over time the instrument's resolution. However, in 1873 Abbe recognized that the resolution has a limit, given by the wave length of light. This limit was considered absolute, until in 1992 Hell suggested a microscope that breaks the limit postulated by Abbe. This is achieved by sending coherent light through two opposing objectives, the resulting interference pattern squeezing the radiation into spots significantly smaller than the light's wavelength. This improvement has already permitted biologists to see a new level of detail in living cells. However, the pattern of light in the Hell microscope is rather complex and certain quantitative measurements require a computational analysis to take advantage of the full benefits of the instrument. Such analysis has been accomplished and validated in a recent study, the validation involving measurements on known systems. The developed numerical algorithms harness the computational power of modern processors, in particular they resort to expoiting the computational power of graphics processors (see also the Oct 2007 highlight). The new methodology combined with the new microscopes opens the avenue to unprecedented measurements in living cells. More information can be found here.