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Microscopy makes a big deal out of little things. And one of the biggest things to come out of microscopy this year was evidence of life on Mars. Using new tools in high-resolution scanning electron microscopy, researchers peered at tiny structures found deep within fractures of a 4.2 pound, potato-sized meteorite and concluded they had found evidence of "primitive life on early Mars" (D.S. McKay et al., Science, 273:924-30, 1996).

But alien microfossils aren't the only news in microscopy. Innovations in technology and technique mean bigger deals can be made out of ever smaller things. Several dozen microscopy specialists responded to E-mail and phone queries from The Scientist with opinions about the most notable new technologies.

"One test of all the exciting things out there is to make yourself a wish list and then go to the floor of our trade show, which is...

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