Monday, December 30, 2013

Find Microscope World on Instagram

Microscope World is now on Instagram! Follow @MicroscopeWorld or view photos online here.

Follow @MicroscopeWorld on Instagram!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from all of us at Microscope World!

Christmas Tree Image

Here is what your pine tree needle looks like under the microscope at 400x magnification!

cross section of a pine needle under the microscope
Cross Section of a Pine Needle under a student  microscope.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Top 10 Gifts for Science Geeks

Shopping for a science geek or a budding genius doesn’t have to be difficult. Whether it’s a gift for the holidays, a birthday, graduation, or a reward for a job well done, here is a list of the top 10 gifts for science geeks to help you give the perfect gift for that special someone on your mind.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Tuberculosis under the Microscope

Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria typically attacks the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidneys, spine and even the brain.

Tuberculosis under microscope
Tuberculosis captured at 100x under a biological microscope.

Tuberculosis is spread through the air from one person to another from coughing, sneezing, speaking or singing. People nearby breathe in these bacteria and become infected. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria will become sick however. Tuberculosis bacteria can live in the human body without making a person sick for years.

Tuberculosis captured at 400x under the U2 digital biological microscope.

Treatment of TB uses antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Effective treatment can be difficult due to the unusual structure and chemical composition of the mycobacterial cell wall. This cell wall hinders the entry of drugs and makes many antibiotics ineffective.

The TB images above were captured using the U2 biological microscope and the 5 megapixel CCD microscope camera. The Tuberculosis prepared slide can be purchased, it is part of the Bacteriology Slide Kit.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Why Biologists Prefer Phase Contrast Microscopes

Why would a biologist prefer a phase contrast microscope over a standard brightfield microscope? Here are a few reasons why phase contrast microscopes are preferred by many biologists over a variety of other microscopes available to them.

image of cheek cells under microscope captured with phase contrast
Cheek cells - phase contrast
image of cheek cells under microscope with brightfield
Cheek cells - brightfield

The images shown above are both of the exact same slide of human cheek cells. The image shown at left was captured with brightfield and the image at right was captured with phase contrast.
  1. A phase contrast microscope allows viewing a clear (transparent) specimen - a living cell - without staining the specimen, which effectively kills it, thereby eliminating the time consuming process of staining the specimen. This is preferred by biologists since living cells can be studied during cell division.
  2. Light passing through a clear specimen undergoes phase changes, brightening areas of the specimen that creates a contrast against the darker areas. This contrast of light and dark makes the specimen visible to the human eye. This is important to biologists because the light contrasts with various mechanisms of the specimen, such as the membrane, cilia and flagella, against a lighter/darker background, making them visible under the microscope. Of importance in molecular biology, the phase contrast microscope enables biologists working in such fields as cancer research and developmental biology to distinguish one type of cell from another.
  3. Phase contrast microscopes are capable of 50x to 1000x magnification. Such magnification is important to biologists because it allows visibility of activities at the cellular level such as protein motility, autography, cell signaling, and metabolism thereby broadening our understanding of cells.
  4. A phase contrast microscope can be used for brightfield, (often darkfield) and phase contrast. Whereas a brightfield microscope can typically only be used for brightfield work.
phase contrast microscope image
Differences between a phase contrast microscope and a brightfield microscope.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bacillus Bacteria under the Microscope

Bacillus is a rod-shaped bacterium. Bacilli are an extremely diverse group of bacteria that include both the causative agent of anthrax (Bacillus anthracis) as well as several species that synthesize important antibiotics. In addition to uses in the medical field, bacillus spores, due to their extreme tolerance to both heat and disinfectants, are used to test heat sterilization techniques and chemical disinfectants.

Bacilli are also used in the detergent manufacturing industry because of their ability to synthesize important enzymes.

Bacillus bacteria under biology microscope
Bacillus captured at 100x magnification with U2 digital microscope.

Bacilli are rod-shaped. Each bacterium only creates one spore, which is resistant to heat, cold, radiation, desiccation (extreme dryness), and disinfectants. Baccilli are capable of living in a wide range of habitats, including many extreme habitats such as the desert and the arctic.

Bacillus captured at 400x magnification with 5mp CCD microscope camera.
Bacilli can cause infections ranging from ear infections and meningitis to urinary tract infections. They mainly occur as secondary infections in immunodeficient or compromised hosts. The most well-known disease caused by bacilli is anthrax. Antrax dates back many years, as it is assumed that the fifth and sixth plagues recorded in the Bible were anthrax (the fifth attacking animals and the sixth attacking humans). Anthrax in recent time has been brought into the public eye by being used for  bio-terrorism.

There are three ways humans can contract anthrax: (1) Cutaneous anthrax occurs when contact with spores from dust particles or through an abrasion. (2) Gastrointestinal anthrax is contracted by ingesting contaminated meat. (3) Pulmonary anthrax results after inhaling spores that are transported to the lymph nodes where they multiply.

Bacillus bacteria captured under the microscope
Bacillus captured at 1000x magnification without use of immersion oil.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Top Measuring Microscope Uses - Measuring Microscope Applications

Have you ever wondered how the inner components of a digital camera or computer could be manufactured with extreme precision? Such precision requires the use of a measuring microscope.

Measuring microscopes are excellent tools used in research and development, tool making, and industrial manufacturing for precision measurements of 2D and 3D parts, angles, shapes, linear dimensions, screw threads, and diameter of objects, including holes that are too small for a measurement probe. Quality control and quality measurement are key steps in the manufacturing process and measuring microscopes are used extensively during this process. Measuring microscopes are also necessary for inspecting a variety of objects such as semiconductors, electronic and electrical components, precision components, resin moldings, and medical products, making it possible to measure specimens that are too soft for contact measurement.

Measuring Microscope Image
Measuring Microscope Features
Measuring microscopes provide high power magnification and because the reflected light is pumped in through the objective lenses, opaque objects can be viewed. Some measuring microscopes also offer transmitted light from beneath the stage. The stage contains working room for larger objects, and the digimatic indicators allow for making measurements.

Measuring microscopes can measure up to 1/2 of a micrometer. Larger measuring microscopes are suitable for the following applications:
  • Length measurement in Cartesian and polar coordinates.
  • Angle measurements of tools such as threading tools, punches, and guages.
  • Thread measurements such as profiling major and minor diameters, height of lead, thread angle, profile position with respect to the thread axis and the shape of the thread.
  • Comparison of centers with drawn patters and drawing of projected profiles.
  • Verification of surface finish.
  • Measurement of surface defects.
  • Measurements of hardness test indentations.
Known for its high magnification and suitability for shop use, measuring microscopes are well built for a variety of applications in the industrial market.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mushroom Under the Microscope

A mushroom is a fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus. The term mushroom describes a variety of gilled fungi, with or without stems. The gills are seen below in detail (blue).

Photo: Captured in Strouds Run State Park, Athens, Ohio USA by Dan Molter
The terms "mushroom" and "toadstool" go back centuries and were never precisely defined. Toadstool was often a term applied to poisonous mushrooms or to those that have the classic umbrella-like cap and stem form. In German folklore and old fairy tales, toads are often depicted sitting on toadstool mushrooms and catching flies.

Mushroom captured under the U2 biological microscope at 100x magnification.
Microscope images were captured using a 5 megapixel CCD microscope camera.

Mushroom under the microscope
Mushroom captured under the U2 biological microscope at 400x magnification.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Microscope Holiday Gift Guide

Microscopes make great educational gifts! This guide will help you navigate through Microscope World and end up with a unique gift for your loved ones.

Gifts for Younger Kids (Ages 3-5)

Recommendation: Keep it simple with a low power 20x microscope for viewing insects, flowers, rocks, etc.
Low Power Kids Microscope
MW1-L1 Kids Microscope 20x

Younger kids are often very interested in science, but they can't yet quite wrap their head around cells and biological specimens that can not be seen by the naked eye. However, they do love to look at things they are already familiar with such as flowers, rocks, toys from around the house, a dollar bill, etc. The MW1-L1 microscope provides 20x magnification and needs no light, cord, or batteries for operation. The single eyepiece is perfect for young kids to look through (rather than some binocular microscopes where the eyepieces can be too far apart for young children).


Gifts for Elementary School Kids (Age 6-11)

Recommendation: A kids high power microscope with one prepared slide kit provides out of the box viewing and enjoyment.

Child Microscope
F1 Kids Microscope
Microscope prepared slide kit
Prepared Slide Kit
Elementary school age kids find it fascinating to look at microscope slides or Protozoans swimming in pond water. It can be a bit tricky for kids of this age to prepare their own slides, so prepared slides are usually the best route when starting off with a high power microscope for Elementary school age students.

Digital microscope for high school students
HS-1D Digital High School Microscope

Gifts for High School Teenagers

Recommendation: A digital high school microscope allows high school students to document images and save them into reports. Include a box of blank slides and cover slips so they can make their own slides.

High School students will have biology classes and can integrate their microscope into school work. A digital microscope allows them to view live images on the computer and capture and save images. The included software can make measurements as well.


Gifts for Hobbyists

Recommendation: A stereo microscope with magnification somewhere between 10x-40x is best for viewing stamps, coins, collections, etc.

Hobby microscopes allow the user to look at small parts or collections. Model railroaders or model builders paint small pieces and glue together parts. Stamp and coin collectors will want to examine dates and defects. Needle-pointers want to view small stitches. All of these hobbyists will do best with magnification somewhere in the range of 10x-40x. A dual power microscope with 10x and 30x is less expensive than a zoom microscope.

hobbyist microscope
S2 Stereo Microscope 10x & 30x

Didn't find what you were looking for? You can view a complete holiday microscope gift guide here. Or call 1-800-942-0528 with any questions.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Human Thyroid Gland

The Thyroid Gland is a butterfly-shaped gland that resides on the lower front of the neck, just below the Adam's apple. When the thyroid is a normal size it can't be felt in the human body. The thyroid is full of blood vessels and its main job is to secrete several hormones called Thyroid Hormones. These act throughout the body to influence metabolism, growth and development, and body temperature.

Thyroid Gland
Image courtesy: Healthline.
Thyroid Gland is highlighted in darker red.

The thyroid gland covers the windpipe from three sides. The thyroid gland produces hormones T3 and T4, which help the body to produce and regulate adrenaline, ephinephrine, and dopamine (all of which are active in brain chemistry). Without a functional thyroid, the human body can not break down proteins or process carbohydrates and vitamins. Thyroid gland problems often lead to weight gain.

Thyroid Gland and Adam's Apple Image
Image courtesy: WebMD

The Thyroid gland can not produce hormones on its own. It requires help from the Pituitary gland. The Pituitary gland produces a thyroid stimulating hormone.

Thyroid gland captured at 100x microscope magnification.
Thyroid Gland captured at 100x magnification.
All images of the Thyroid gland were captured at Microscope World using the U2 biological microscope and the DCC5.1P 5 megapixel CCD camera and software.

Microscope image of thyroid gland captured at 400x magnification.
Thyroid Gland captured at 400x magnification.
The thyroid gland is one of the largest endocrine glands and gets its name from the Greek adjective for "shield shaped" because of its shape relative to the thyroid cartilage.

Thyroid Gland labeled with follicles, epithelial cells and endothelial cells

In the human thyroid gland image above the follicles are labeled with "X". These are the follicles that selectively absorb iodine from the blood for production of thyroid hormones. 25 percent of the body's iodine ions are in the thyroid gland.

The follicular epithelial cells are labeled "Y". The follicles mentioned above are surrounded by a single layer of thyroid epithelial cells which secrete T3 and T4 hormones. When they are not secreting hormones, the epithelial cells range in size from low columnar to cuboidal cells. They are much taller columnar cells when active.

The endothelial cells (very small) are labeled with "Z". These cells are scattered among follicular cells and are found in spaces between spherical follicles. Their primary role is to secrete calcitonin, which acts to reduce blood calcium.

Thyroid Gland captured under microscope at 1000x magnification
The above image of a human thyroid gland was captured at 1000x magnification. A 100x oil immersion objective was used, however immersion oil was not used when capturing the image (hence the lack of crispness in the image). Whenever using a 100x oil immersion lens, the best microscopy images will always be obtained when using immersion oil.