Sometimes my jaw just drops when I read about scientific advances. If the reporter understood this and I understood the reporter they are using a magnetic field causing protons to vibrate which is then measured with a tiny scale.

What makes me astounded is how quickly we are reaching into the molecular level. 15 years ago this was just some wild eyed, theoretical paper.

From A Breakthrough in Imaging – Seeing a Virus in Three Dimensions:

Virus in 3d

Magnetic resonance force microscopy employs an ultrasmall cantilever arm as a platform for specimens that are then moved in and out of proximity to a tiny magnet. At extremely low temperatures the researchers are able to measure the effect of a magnetic field on the protons in the hydrogen atoms found in the virus.

By repeatedly flipping the magnetic field, the researchers are able to cause a minute vibration in the cantilever arm which can then be measured by a laser beam. By moving the virus through the magnetic field it is possible to build up a 3-D image from many two-dimensional samples.