Friday, December 30, 2011

The Beaches You Walk On

Sand: the epitome of a relaxing vacation by the water for thousands around the world.  But, what’s in sand? What makes up its grainy texture that smoothes your skin and hurts your eyes?  Dr. Gary Greenberg wondered the same thing when he first started checking out sand under his microscope.  What started with simple curiosity led Greenberg to something beautiful. With magnifications of up to 250 times, Greenberg used acupuncture needles to arrange his specimen and then started photographing it.  The beauty of what Greenberg found left him speechless. “Every time I look through my microscope I am fascinated by the complexity and individuality created by a combination of nature and the repeated tumbling of the surf on a beach,” Greenberg stated to Catalyst in October, 2011. 

Greenberg adds that studying sand doesn’t only make for marvelous pictures; it can reveal the history of a place both geologically and biologically.  For example, a grain of sand from the desert will probably be pitted or covered in pock-marks from where it collided with other grains while a grain of sand from the ocean will have a much smoother surface.

To read the entire Catalyst article, click here.  If you want to check out more of Greenberg’s work on sand, visit his gallery.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dissect Your Favorite Veggie

Want to get up close and personal with your favorite vegetable?  Have your child pick out his or her favorite veggie (don’t worry, you can do it too!) and start your dissection with a magnifying glass and a child-safe knife.  Have your child locate all the parts of the veggie before cutting it into smaller pieces and examining it with the magnifying glass.  After that, if you want to make things really interesting, discuss with your child how their vegetable adapts to its habitat.  Then, for the grand finale, prepare tissue slides with tissue from their vegetable and check them out under the microscope.  For more science activities with vegetables, click here

Your New Microscope...Now What?

Whether it was an early Christmas gift or a purchase for your amateur microscopy hobby, your new microscope has finally arrived.  Now what? You want to check out cells, hairs and anything you can get your hands on, but you can’t figure out how to use this thing.  Let us help you!

Start by getting acquainted with the parts of your new microscope.  After that, master focusing in on an object and your life as the “next big scientist” will become much easier.  When you’re focusing in on a specimen, always start with the scanning objective; if you don’t, you won’t be able to see anything on a higher power objective.  You’ll need to use the coarse knob to focus and, while the image will still be small, you should be able to see something during this process.  Once you’ve focused with the scanning objective, switch to low power and use the coarse knob to focus in on your image again.  Just as before, if you don’t focus in on your specimen here, you will not be able to see anything at a higher power.  Now you’re ready for your high power objective!  Switch to your high power objective and only use your fine adjustment knob to focus on your object.  Once you’re focused, you can adjust the brightness of your specimen by adjusting the diaphragm.

For more information on using your microscope, help with parts of your microscope, tips on drawing your specimen, creating a wet mount and much more, visit