This is What Sand Looks Like When You Magnify It Up to 300 Times

A sea of sand may look boring, or even insignificant – a bunch of white-ish tan specks that beach goers lie out on and children build sandcastles out of. Yet, upon closer inspection sand is anything but boring, it’s rather incredible.

We can all thank sand enthusiast Dr. Gary Greenberg for publishing these awesome photos of sand magnified up to 300 times using a microlens.

His images offer proof that sand is so much more than meets the eye.

Sand is a piece of the past and a part of the present. It’s ever changing and forever growing thanks to the fact erosion never stops and organisms continue to pass away and break down over time.

But wait… it gets better. Dr. Greenburg is the one who invented the high-definition 3D lenses he uses to take these mesmerizing and eye-opening photos. Plus, he holds 18 U.S. patents as a result.

Back when he was just thirty-three, the photographer and filmmaker relocated from London to Los Angeles where he earned his Ph.D. in biomedical research.

His fascination with science paired with his background in photography led him down the path of optical macro photography technologies.

When there wasn’t a lens strong enough to show the impressive details of sand, he decided to create it himself. The result? These photos that’ll change the way you look at sand forever.

Sand composition changes from place to place. The beautiful sand particles photographed by Dr. Greenburg likely originate from his home base in Hawaii.

What looks like sand on the beach from afar is much more complex upon closer inspection. From this close up, you realize sand is made up of tiny pieces of tropical sea organisms.

If you closely examine any sand you will find a variety of materials – including minerals, rocks and organic matter. Factors that influence what sand is made of include local temperatures, surf conditions, and marine environment.

Sand is often made from large boulders that have eroded due to wind and water, causing them to break apart into tiny specks that gather together to create massive piles of sand.

Sand can come from many different sources – not just minerals, rocks and boulders. Any material that can be broken down over time into little specks is game to become sand.

There are many different types of sand including silica sand, black sand, ooid sand, gypsum sand, and so forth. Sand comes in many different colors as well including white, tan, brown, grey, and black.

The most common material that makes up sand is silica (silicone dioxide). Tropical beach sand is heavy in aragonite (calcium carbonate), which originates from tiny pieces of shellfish and coral.

It takes many years for a large piece of coral or the shell of a shellfish to become small enough to be considered a grain of sand. Technically, a grain of sand measures between two millimeters and 16th of a millimeter.

“Biogenic sands often contain fragments of the hard tissues from marine organisms such as shells, corals, sponges, sea urchins, forams, and bryozoans,” writes Dr. Greenburg.

“When these organisms die, the hard tissues that are left behind erode into some of the most spectacular grains of sand imaginable,” he adds.

The size and shape of sand can help determine its origin and age. Although, it’s much easier to see what sand originated from by looking at it under Dr. Greenburg’s microlenses.

Sand that has more pronounced edges is typically a newer grain of sand.

People who collect sand as a hobby are known as ‘arenophiles.’

According to educated estimates by researchers at the University of Hawaii, Earth’s beaches are home to 7.5 billion grains of sand.

If you find this interesting, you will love Dr. Greenburg’s book, The Secrets of Sand. This book takes a look at sand found around North America. Along with pictures, there are descriptions about the origins of sand and how the environment has worked to shape it over the years.

Dr. Greenburg has authored a couple other books as well, and you guessed it, they all revolve around the wonders of sand. He even has a book for middle-school age children called Mary’s Magic Microscope.