Sometimes our samples get visitors.

In most cases, they’re simply little flecks of dust that have settled to the surface of our chips. Since most of the structures we’re making are so small, your average chunk of dust can be comparatively building-sized.

They usually scare the willies out of me when I’m zoomed into my structure, scanning the microscope across, and suddenly one of them looms into the field of view like a giant monster. Sometimes the force of the electron beam from the microscope actually makes them move a little, and they seem to be reaching out to get me.

In this case, the dust bunny (it really does look kind of bunny-shaped) seems to almost float serenely above the surface of my sample, looking out over the long, long wall of laser material. It’s perched respectfully on one of my labels so as not to interfere with my experiment - a very well-behaved dust bunny.

They’re not always well-behaved. There’s another researcher in my group who has to triple- and quadruple-clean all her glassware and beakers in some of the most caustic chemicals you can imagine, because a single errant particle of dust would cause her samples to fall apart.

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