What's unexpectedly cool to look at under a microscope?
September 3, 2018 9:26 AM   Subscribe

I have a Foldscope which has a single 140x lens. I'm going to an event on Friday where I'll be encouraging other people to look at things with Foldscopes. I've got an inventory of feathers, moss, and pond water. What are other things could I could find laying around in nature/my house and easily mount (no dyes or fancy processes) that might blow the mind of the average non-scientist?

By "easily mount" I mean 100% quick-and-dirty glass slide, glass coverslip and some tape to hold it together. (I am an experienced Foldscope-user so I'm pretty good at this kind of amateur on-the-fly slide preparation but it does not lend itself well to all categories of samples.)
posted by soren_lorensen to Science & Nature (12 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
iPhone vs Android screens are fairly interesting at that power.

Hi-tech fabrics like goretex, compared to jeans or flannel.

Sugar vs salt vs sand can be fun.
Also you can make larger salt or sugar crystals the night before by dissolving and evaporating a small pan of each. They won’t get big enough to be that neat to naked eye but under the scope the difference will be marked.

Pluck your own eyelashes and look for mites.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:37 AM on September 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Broadly speaking, it's most fun to show people ordinary stuff that has surprising textures: leather and paper, for example, or leaves.

Can you find a dead fly? They're super-freaky up close, even their wings (if you have to have a flat mount).

How about food, like a very thin slice of beef?

Can you steal ideas from their community site, https://www.foldscope.com/microcosmos/?

(Aaaaand now I want a Foldscope; I already have a cheap Carson pocket microscope that is fun for stuff like this, and that I am happy to hand to my kids.)
posted by wenestvedt at 10:11 AM on September 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

-b/w newspaper photo,
-color newspaper photo (even better if you can get old ones to compare dpi),
-magazine image ditto
-engraved postage stamp
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:38 AM on September 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

A scab? A fingernail?
posted by stillmoving at 11:18 AM on September 3, 2018

Red onion skin is the classic, because you don’t have to stain it. Blood is also cool, if you feel like pricking your finger for the cause. A coin? Some hair? Leaves are cool, because you can start to see some of the interesting structures that help the plant live, like trichromes and stomata.
posted by Illuminated Clocks at 11:27 AM on September 3, 2018

US pennies. Lincoln is so interesting under a microscope.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:38 AM on September 3, 2018

Mushrooms (macrofungi) / slime mold.
posted by nightrecordings at 12:06 PM on September 3, 2018

When you are looking at moss under decent magnification, make sure to be on the lookout for water bears aka moss piglets aka tardigrades. I always see them when looking at moss. Most people are fascinated to hear that even if there was a nuclear explosion or we were all hurled out into space or ran out of water on Earth, yep, tardigrades would survive all that.
posted by vacapinta at 12:24 PM on September 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

Butterfly/moth scales
Dead spiders
posted by plinth at 2:10 PM on September 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Snake skin or bits of paper wasp nests have been fun for us to look at. Pollen.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:44 PM on September 3, 2018

Hair? A thin slice of fruit (like an orange maybe)?
posted by sevenofspades at 4:25 PM on September 3, 2018

Look to the original popularizer of microscopy, Robert Hooke's Micrographia. His hits included razor blade edges and sewing needle points, feathers, hair, minerals, sand, wood, cork, and a host of fleas, flies, gnats, worms, &c.
posted by mumkin at 9:11 PM on September 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

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