MathBench > Visualization

Cross Sections


Cell organelles are a lot more complicated than the shapes we've been talking about.  One problem with using a microscope is that we have an idea in our heads about what an organelle should look like.  This idea is 3-dimensional, and probably resembles the pretty pictures in the biology textbook. 

If I tell you that an organelle is peanut shaped, with multiple shelf-like structures inside, you will probably recognize that I'm describing a mitochondrion.  But the 2-dimensional structures you see on a microscope slide will most likely look nothing like that!  Sure, once in a while you might get lucky and cut the organelle in just the right direction to see a cross-section of that peanut-shelf-structure, but not usually. 

In the applet below, can you determine which organelle you are looking at just from the slices? As you click on each slice, you will set where it came from. After clicking on all 4, you will see the organelle itself.


Visualizing a 3-dimensional structure in 2 dimensions is actually an enormously complicated process, and you could get into alot of really abstruse math while pursuing it, but luckily, we're going to stop here.




If you want a printer-friendly version of this module, you can find it here in a Microsoft Word document. This printer-friendly version should be used only to review, as it does not contain any of the interactive material, and only a skeletal version of problems solved in the module.