Digital Microscopes – Cheap Geeky Summer Fun

Geek Culture

William Gurstelle is GeekDad’s current guest blogger. His new book Absinthe and Flamethrowers: Projects and Ruminations on the Art of Living Dangerously is on sale everywhere. Follow him on twitter at wmgurst

ant-head_mediumant-head_mediumI loved to look at stuff under a microscope when I was young. In particular, I remember my dad taking a drop of water out of our aquarium and placing on a slide. There was a lot of stuff in that blob of water — fungi, microscopic plants, and a lot of unknown stuff. But the big deal was to find a paramecium. They are clear little, one-celled creatures with a lot of hairs or cilia with which they scoot around.

Recently I tested a new type of handheld digital and optical microscope. The new generation of digital microscopes are wonderful little devices for taking a very, very close look at stuff in the house and garden. I hooked it up to my netbook computer and ran around the neighborhood annoying ants and beetles.

I spent the whole afternoon looking at stuff and taking pictures. Skin cells, fabrics, seeds, and of course, bugs, were just part of the wild menagerie of things I examined. Corny it may seem, but I was enthralled. moustache-hairmoustache-hair

Click on the ant head above to see the movie I made of an ant, or browse to While I was observing the ant, I noticed it seemed have an even smaller insect crawling over its thorax. So I zoomed in for a closer look. Yeow! I posted it to YouTube and then used YouTube’s simple editing tools to add titles, highlights, and a soundtrack. The whole video probably took less than hour to record, edit, and post.

I made the video using a Celestron 44306 Handheld Digital Microscope . Incredibly, the street price is under $100. Better than any toy, digital microscopy is the perfect summer project for GeekDads and children.
This exemplifies a point I’ve often made in the past: On the whole, I’d rather explore things hands-on in my own backyard than to read about things, even great and wonderful things on the Internet.

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