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A Random Video Wiki

USB Microscopes

Got a budding scientist in the family? Encourage his or her curiosity with one of these USB microscopes. They don't just offer the traditional capability of magnifying objects for close examination, but they also connect seamlessly to Macs, PCs, and even smartphones, so you can capture images and video for later playback and study.

A Brief History Of Microscopes

For as long as mankind has walked the Earth, we've wanted to know if there are little bugs crawling in our eyelashes. Well, maybe not — we're probably better off not knowing — but we've long been fascinated by the possibilities of an unseen world all around us.

The first attempt to shed light on the microscopic realm came in the 14th century, with the creation of the first ground-glass lenses. These were designed only to improve eyesight, but the basic concept would be used a few centuries later by a pair of Dutch lensgrinders, Hans and Zacharias Janssen. They put two lenses together in a tube, creating a primitive compound microscope.

This new device was mainly seen as a mere novelty until the 1660s, when naturalists in several countries began to use them to study biology. The most famous of these was Antonie von Leeuwenhoek, who was the first person to describe cells and bacteria. He was able to do so by modifying his microscope, adding a glass ball lens that allowed him to magnify subjects up to 300 times.

The main limitation of these early microscopes was their ability to capture and focus light. Until electric lamps became available, it was very difficult to evenly light your subject, and it turns out that it's extremely hard to use a microscope in the dark. In 1893, the German scientist August Kohler developed a form of illumination that bears his name, allowing for sharper images and improved analysis.

However, about a half century later, an alternative to the light microscope was created. Designed by German physicist Ernst Ruska, this model used electrons instead of light to illuminate the subject, allowing for significantly better resolution. It would eventually lead to the ability to visually identify viruses, making it easier to quickly respond to infections. Ruska won the Nobel Prize for his efforts.

Since then, there have been many more advancements in the field of microscopy, with scanning probes, x-rays, fluorescence, and super resolution microscopes all helping to further our knowledge of the infinitesimal world around us. We can now see things that were previously only discussed theoretically, like nanoparticles.

Of course, we can also now see things we wish we could unsee, like the mites crawling around in our eyelashes right now...

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