Researchers create micro-ear, a microscope for sound

British researchers are working on developing a standard "micro-ear," a technology they think will one day be as commonplace as a microscope in the modern laboratory. At the moment, the micro-ear system works by measuring the vibrations a micro-organism makes in fluid using tiny, micro-wide beads tracked by lasers. Arranged in a ring around the organism, the beads give researchers a pretty good idea of the shape of the sound.

"We can trap and hold the beads and can connect the output to a speaker so we can hear them vibrating," Professor Miles Padgett from the University of Glasgow told the BBC. So far the team has been able to discern a "Brownian motion," or the rustling from the continuous motion of atoms and molecules on a slide.

So, what's it all good for? Well, other than figuring what micro-organisms talk about to kill time, the team plans to use the micro-ear to study the behavior of the tiny creatures. Specifically, the researchers want to know if whether harmful objects do said harm based on some action of its own, or a result of something acting on it, figuring how why harmful micro-organisms act the way they do could be the key to preventing them.