CAT | Microscopy News
We’re surrounded by an abundance of technology, nowadays so it can sometimes be hard to imagine what it was like to look through a microscope for the very first time in the 1600s. Before the invention of the compound (multi-lensed) microscope, people believed that the world was comprised solely of what could be seen with the naked eye; it must have been overwhelming to realize what humanity had been missing! Once optical microscopy took off, scientists could finally get a detailed look at everything from well-known insects to completely new bacteria and understand how the tiny structures of a material affected its behavior.
Scientists are well-known for conducting experiments and documenting every detail of their actions. So it’s not surprising that the great analytical minds of the day began to sketch out the details of what they saw under the microscope in order to preserve the images for future reference. These images came to be known as micrographs, and they have evolved alongside the microscope in terms of their level of detail and use of technology.
Initially, micrographs were hand-drawn sketches detailing what the observer saw on the slide. One of the first known images made with a microscope was drawn by Francesco Stelluti, who published a sheet of bee anatomy in 1630. Thirty-five years later, scientist Robert Hooke wrote and published Micrographia, the first major book about microscopy. The tome detailed his observations: the eyeball of a fly, a plant cell, insect wings, and a huge fold-out engraving of a louse. Micrographia was a monumental best-seller that also coined the biological term ‘cell’ after Hooke’s famous inspection of a piece of cork.
Basic sketches remained an easy method for documenting microscopic images for many years. When photography technology caught up, people would often simply hold a standard camera up to a microscope eyepiece and take a picture; after all, the camera was designed to resemble the viewpoint of a human eye, so it made sense to try to capture the slide permanently by exposing it to film. This technique is called the afocal method’. A typical optical microscope emits parallel light rays from its source up into the ocular, so an image can be created using a camera that is made for capturing very distant objects; those lenses are designed to work with parallel light as well. The eyepieces of both the ocular and the camera must be carefully chosen to work together to capture a clear image.
The direct imaging method is far more straightforward: both the eyepiece of the microscope and the lens of the camera are removed, and the camera is placed on the microscope tube so that its shutter surface matches the primary image plane projected by the microscope. You can also purchase mechanical adapters, which attach the camera to the microscope tube directly and allow for a much clearer method of focusing. Digital photography has made micrographs much easier to produce. Modern microscopes may contain a built-in camera and USB connection, which will allow you to plug them into a computer and record images directly onto the hard drive. However, a more flexible approach is to buy a standard microscope and add an external microscope camera. That way, you can use different cameras on the same microscope and vice versa. As important, you do not need to buy an entirely new unit if the camera software fails. Whatever your method, microscope imaging, or photomicrography, has grown and changed alongside microscopy, recording humanity’s findings for future research and posterity.
Harvard has done it again! This time scientists in the laboratory of Federico Capasso at Harvard’s Schoolof Engineeringhave designed an innovative flat lens made of gold. No more than 1,000th the width of a human hair, it focuses light via antennae as opposed to refraction required of a glass lens.
By adjusting the length and angles of the antennae, the lens can create different amplitudes and phases. Each concentric ring of antennae can then be adjusted to achieve the desired focal length. In other words, there should be no need for glass lenses and all the complexity and bulk required for achromatic correction.
Happily for microscope retailers, this new lens is currently only optimized for near-infrared light of a single wavelength used in telecommunications……but one day it will undoubtedly revolutionize light microscopy not to mention cameras and other optical systems that currently employ glass lenses.
“Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology is Indistinguishable From Magic”
Such was our reaction the first time Hubble’s “Eagle Nebula” imagery beamed in from deep space. Now it seems Arthur Clarke’s prophetic words ring true once again, this time from a universe within the microscope.
From Science Daily comes news of a breakthrough in microscopy from scientists at the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, with potentially far-reaching implications. “World’s Most Powerful Optical Microscope: Microscope Could Solve The Cause of Viruses”, reads the headline.
They report seeing structures as small as 50 nanometers in size, 20 times smaller than the best optical microscope currently available. Nano, a prefix meaning “dwarf” in Greek, also means one billionth of a meter.
To put that in perspective, the period at the end of this sentence is almost 500,000 nanometers in diameter. Which means they’ve effectively moved beyond the electron microscope – well beyond it, and the implications are significant.
Read the full article here, and enjoy learning a bit of modern magic.
Daniel’s microscopy photos is a brilliant blog showcasing his artistic images of a variety of items that can be found around the house! Daniel uses advanced techniques like focus stacking and image stitching software to turn the extremely small into artistic works that are truly intriguing! Take a look for yourself… http://microphoto.tumblr.com/
National Geographic has announced the 2009 Best Microscopic Life Images winners and they are absolutely stunning.
Electrochemists looking to apply their skills to the nascent field of nanotechnology have created an itsy-bitsy battery, 100 of which would fit into a single human red blood cell!
The record-small battery consists of pillars of copper and silver laid down on a graphite surface with a scanning tunneling microscope (STM), says Reginald M. Penner of the University of California, Irvine. Penner calculates that the battery generates one-fiftieth of a volt during its 45-minute lifespan.
Source: Science News; Pennisi, Elizabeth
Scientists at the National Physcial Laboratory in the UK assembled the tiny snowman using microscopes and tools designed to manipulate nano-particles. The little guy’s width is only .01mm wide… which is one fifth of the width of a human hair! Click the link below to check out the photos!
[ Read more at: Daily Mail Science & Technology ]
Check out National Geographic ‘Best Tiny Microscopic Life’ picture awards at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/11/photogalleries/best-tiny-microscopic-life-pictures/index.html
They offer some remarkable images produced from all over the world. My favorite is the 5th placed Poisoned Algae, but they are all breathtaking to view. I wonder if there is any interest in our store running a light microscope image competition? Let us know!
Top 10 uses for a pinhead? Depending on your use of English, you may come up with a couple of practical answers that relate to sewing or to verbal abuse. I guarantee that painting Bart Simpson or Elvis Presley on a pinhead is not among them……but they are to Willard Wigan. Take a look at these amazing microscopic paintings that Willard specializes in, all painted using a microscope.
There is no end, apparently, to the ingenious uses to which a microscope can be put!
Imagine being able to see something 10,000 times thinner than a piece of your own hair. Or unravel a spider’s recipe for spinning silk as strong as steel.
It’s now possible with the new Isis 2 target station in Oxfordshire, a “super microscope” that uses electron beams instead of light waves to achieve a magnification level that surpasses all others.
Isis’ first neutron source opened in 1984 and has been invaluable to engineers, helping them to solve a myriad of everyday occurrences like how to efficiently make fabric softener, but Isis 2 will open doors to bigger science. According to BBC News, “At its core is a lump of tungsten metal the size of a packet of biscuits – the ‘target’ – into which pulses of protons are fired at 84 percent of the speed of light. The target radiates neutrons like a discoball scatters light – 20,000 million million per second.”
A team of research scientists at Autonomous University in Madrid is one step closer to creating a new kind of microscope – one that will study delicate materials by bouncing helium atoms off their surfaces. The team, led by Rodolfo Miranda, has completed work on an ultrasmooth mirror, what will become an integral part of the atomic microscope.
Unlike the electron microscope, which can potentially annihilate a subject-in-view with its strong electron beams, the atomic microscope will rely on a low-energy beam of helium atoms to get a more precise image of a structure’s surface.
Miranda claims the mirror, which is less than an inch wide, is the world’s smoothest.
I was surfing the Web for microscopy news when I ran across this heart-warming story about a woman who donated her deceased husband’s beloved microscope to her hometown high school in Farmer City, Illinois.
Kathy (Schield) Patterson, who now lives in Fairfax, Va., donated the 75-pound Nikon Diaphot to Blue Ridge High School. Her husband, Mike, was a research scientist and college pathology professor who died a few years ago. According to Pentagraph.com, the 1985 model sells for roughly $7,000 on eBay. Science teacher Mike Hendricks says the donated microscope is the best one in the lab. Apparently the slides are pretty valuable, too.
We have recently been alerted to a remarkable new web site www.jove.com . JOVE is a UTube for research experiments and nothing less than superb. Any scientist can make a video of his/her experiment and post it on the site so that scientists round the world can learn, replicate and improveÂ their methodologies. JOVE also make the videos for a variety of research labs. It was founded by senior researchers from, among others, Harvard Medical School, and offersÂ a truly exciting addition to the world of microscopy. Apart from anything else, the website is also superbly designed. Apparently, many of these experiments use our CamAdapter kit www.camadapter.com for the micro-photography elements – which we are thrilled about.