I felt very anxious about starting again in the Department of Applied Maths. Last time it seemed so easy; those plastic objects were perfect. Back then I was more worried how I was going to make work with 3D data, that was the challenge. But what to X-ray now? The team are looking at dynamic systems and that means rock and bone. I was really worried that Tim might think my sprouting seed idea rather simplistic. The Department meets for morning coffee and welcome me back. Naturally I am asked what I’m planning to do this time round. I felt so self-conscious I waited for everyone to go back to work before I proposed the idea to Tim; will 3D X-rays of sprouting seeds work? I don’t know why I was worried. Tim had of course thought about it before and can’t wait to give it a go.
My original idea was to X-ray Australian native seeds as they germinate – as they have curious structures I thought they would be visually interesting – but to do this I would have to become an expert on how they sprout. For the moment we need something immediate. Mung beans are the obvious choice; they are so willing to grow they will sprout happily in space. Infact, when I look them up there are a some sites proffering school experiments on how to sprout mung beans rotating on record tables to simulate anti-gravity. Without gravity, where do mungs direct their sprouts? In space, do they know what is up or down?
So first things first. I go to Dickson to the health food shop in search of seeds. A nice girl in a loose cotton shift helps me choose a box of organic bio-snacky mung beans. She looks pleased and makes a comment about my healthy choice. I’m not sure if I can tell her and I feel strangely guilty when I hand over the cash; its not like I’m about to torture mice…
But how do mung beans grow? There are excellent sources available for timelapse photography and this example was filmed by the science technicians of Reigate college in the UK over aprox 10 days.
I start growing a few in a bowl on the kitchen sink at home. In theory I know what the seeds do but now I have to be a bit more observant. They expand considerably in the first 12 hours of soaking. I rinse the water and keep them moist. I have to be out all day so when I come home they have expanded some more. The next morning they have split their green jackets and I can see a tiny protrusion. hmm, I have to say it does look a little bit like a penis. It only takes a few days and all of the mung beans have three to four centimetre sprouts. I wonder what they will look like X-rayed.