When my brother and I were very young we lived opposite an elderly professor of biology whose home possessed all the qualities of a museum.

To visit him was a fascinating experience with weird unknown creatures preserved in glass jars, set insects and stuffed animals adorning shelves and window ledges.

One Christmas my parents purchased from our learned friend an old but very powerful microscope together with a selection of prepared slides.

We spent hours peering at them, favourites being a bee sting, butterfly wings with scales resembling feathers and dust from a long forgotten volcano eruption.

Soon we amassed collections of our own. An expedition to our local pond yielded countless subjects for study.

Pond water supports a vast array of minute specimens including daphnia or water fleas; fast-moving one-eyed Cyclops bearing dual egg sacks; sinister hydra which anchored themselves to sides of glass jars and waved octopus-style tentacles to trap unwary plankton and, hauling themselves along bottom, caddis fly larvae bedecked in protective tubes of sand and plan debris.

Its amazing too just what a mere drop of water from a roadside puddle contains.

Most of us seldom give much thought to these complex and often beautiful hidden worlds which surround us but a glance at them was enough to make me realize just how insignificant the human race may sometimes appear within the grand scheme of things upon earth and the infinite universe as a whole.