Don't take the title literally. The ripples Seth Darling of Argonne National Laboratory and Steven Sibener of the University of Chicago, both in Illinois, captured with an atomic force microscope may look like the surface of an ocean, but they are a mere nanometer deep, and there's not a drop of water in sight.
The rich shades of turquoise and indigo are artificial, but the choppy waves are real. They are formed by millions of molecules arranging themselves on a gold surface. These "self-assembled monolayers" come with a head that clings to the surface and a tail that sticks out into the environment. Darling compares it to dumping a bowl of wet spaghetti on the floor and "all of a sudden it stands up as if it were uncooked spaghetti on end. That's kind of a weird thing to happen."
This image won first place in the “Photography” category of the 2010 International Science and Engineering Visualisation Challenge appearing in the journal Science, published by AAAS.
Image credit: Seth B Darling, Argonne National Laboratory, Steven J Sibener, University of Chicago