Kids' Microscope in Montreal?
August 31, 2012 9:47 AM   Subscribe

I want to buy a microscope for an 8-year-old kid.

I want to buy a decent microscope -- something with good quality glass and enough zoom that my 8-year-old daughter and I can look at germs and plant cells and things. What magnification am I looking for?

Where should I buy one in Montreal?
posted by musofire to Science & Nature (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
These days, the coolest microscopes have USB interfaces and display on a computer screen.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:04 AM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Anything that doesn't support water or oil immersion (ie., there's a layer of water or immersion oil between the coverslip and the objective) is just a toy.

Also, you'll want glass slides and coverslips as well. For plants, you'll ideally want to research various stains that will highlight particular organelles otherwise it's pretty boring. A classic undergraduate experiment is to look at probiotic (live) yoghurt after gram staining. You can also buy pre-stained slides with various specimens already prepared.

OTOH, you can see zooplankton pretty easily with a 25x dissecting scope (so at least ~250x magnification [25x objective, 10x eyepiece]). Take water samples from puddles, ponds, drainage culverts, &c. Put a drop on a glass slide, drop a coverslip on top, have fun looking at animiculae swimming around! A lot of soil bacteria spores are also motile (take a largish pinch of dirt, drop into a few mililitres of water, mix, put a drop on the slide, drop a coverslip on top). A lot of yeast and bacteria move around, too. Mold is also fun to look at. Dilute "yucky stuff" in a bit of water and put a drop onto a slide and cover. As are hair from different people (no need to prepare it) with different kinds of hair. Ditto natural vs artificial fibres (wool vs cotton vs different kinds of poly). This can be interesting even at lower magnifications. Bellybutton "lint" is very different than pocket lint. Blood is interesting as is the difference between clear puss and milky puss. I've self diagnosed a skin infection and figured out that the antibiotics that were prescribed to me wouldn't be effective, ditched my family doctor for a clinic doc and got a different antibiotic.

For an 8 yo, the toy-ish USB capable microscopes are probably a very good bet. Pay attention to its reported magnification - you'll want optical magnification, not digital (which is fake, it's like resizing a jpg). Not many of these are capable of being much more than being a glorified magnifying glass. Also look at how many frames per second the thing can stream; 25 is probably the minimum you'll want.

There used to be a Canadian brick and mortar Science! store franchise that would set up in malls, but I think they've been defunct for at least a decade and a half. Can't remember the name (Monyers? google says no), but that's were I got my first dissection kit as well as glassware from them when I was 9 or 10 (I still have that o.l.d. school monocular oil immersion microscope. Weighs around 10kg - it was actually a then-research/higher-education quality scope.).

Huh, looking at some of these USB scopes - the illumination sucks (ie., top-down). Transillumination (lighting up the sample from the bottom) is generally infinitely more preferable.

It's probably too late now, but about a decade ago there were pretty regular liquidation events at the University of British Columbia that sold oldschool outdated surplus "stuff" to the public, to clean out old crap that was in storage. I know there are a few microscopes from the same era as my first one gathering dust around the Brain Research Centre where I work, though. Perhaps ask around with people who work at McGill or other universities around town?

You might have better luck cold calling the Montreal Science Museum and talking to someone there about your desires; might not be worth actually buying a microscope before doing a class/seminar/demonstration to see if your kid's interested in the microscopic world.
posted by porpoise at 8:41 PM on August 31, 2012

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