Russell's Blog

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Microscope shots

Posted by Russell on December 16, 2009 at 11:22 p.m.
My mom is doing some species survey work for the Navy, and got interested in these insanely tiny Chalcid wasps. Some of them are smaller than a grain of sand wingtip-to-wingtip, so it was pretty difficult to identify them under her binocular dissection microscope. I suggested maybe she should try out a consumer digital microscope before trying to get her grant coordinator to spring for anything huge and expensive. She picked up a Celestron microscope on sale from Amazon.

Obviously, it's not going to perform like one of the Nikon or Leica lab scopes, but it cost about one thirtieth as much, and it's humorously easy to use. If she can use it to zero in on the features used to identify these things and easily document what she sees, it'll do.

Here's what I was able to capture with a Chalcid wasp in ethanol with no slip cover. No effort was made to orient the objective, stain it, or improve the contrast. I just focused and hit the capture button.

Hmm... Looks like it might actually be usable with a little practice. The depth of field is not great, though.

I've been curious about the feasibility of making usable lab equipment as mass-produced consumer products. This scope is probably good enough for some specific problems, but not as a piece of generally usable lab equipment. But it's not as far away as I expected, actually.

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