ONCE A YEAR, THE WHOLE staff meets to brainstorm ideas for new issue themes. I recently started wearing eyeglasses, and right before our latest planning session, I decided to tighten them up (so they’d stay on my face during bouts of extreme editing). I reached for my trusty mini-stuff tool kit, figured I’d clean the hinge while I was in there, disassembled my specs, and promptly lost one of the screws that held them together. Mission not accomplished! I marveled at how such an insignificant (and basically invisible) widget could make such a big difference in my day.
Later, during the freeassociation portion of our brainstorm, I wrote the word “screws” on a sticky note, smiling to myself because the world had presented us with such a wonderful subject to explore. My mind started spinning around how we could fill a magazine with stories of fasteners, threads, spirals, and more.
Plot twist: Screws are not this issue’s focus, nor did we choose them as a 2019 theme. That’s OK, though, because this magazine’s subject, tiny stuff, will do just fine. The outsize importance of undersize items perfectly captured my glasses experience. That screw wasn’t really invisible or insignificant; it was just small. Yet it played a huge role in my ability to see. It’s not alone in being underappreciated because of its size, and that’s the germ of this entire issue. We even glorified my threaded friend in the middle section of the magazine (page 68).
Everywhere you look in these 134 pages, you’ll see us take a glass to the slighter things, as well as to the innovations that help us examine them. From our microbiome to the bacterial backstory of your breakfast toast, from rugged microscopes to mini-golf gear, this issue is all about going big on the little stuff.
So sit back, tuck in, and pay attention: Though we’ve done a lot of the magnifying work for you, there’s always more to see when you look a little bit closer.