Saturday, March 15, 2014

Monster soup

After the turn of the 19th c. and the invention of the microscope, people realized that the water they were drinking was full of harmful organisms. In the cartoon above, a British woman is dropping her teacup in horror upon discovering the monstrous contents of a magnified drop of Thames water. These pathogens are still harming billions of people in developing countries, and causing a million deaths a year from malaria alone. Microscopic examination of blood samples goes undone because facilities either do not have the heavy and expensive (and fragile) microscopes or do not know how to use them. But this will soon change with a brilliant invention called the FoldScope. With the help of his students, bioengineer Manu Prakash of Stanford University has developed a low-cost microscope that magnifies up to 2000X; will fit in a pocket; weighs less than 10 grams; can withstand rough treatment; can be used for bright-field, dark-field, polarization, and fluorescence microscopy; and can even work as a projector. The device uses an LED battery with a life up to 50 hours. The body of the instrument is cut and folded from a sheet of heavy paper that includes a piece of conductive copper tape or glass and a sapphire ball lens. Only a short training lesson is needed to construct it in 10 to 20 minutes and to use it immediately. The cost of the FoldScope when mass-produced is $.97. Wow. (WATCH TED TALK HERE.)

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