Pharyngula

Holiday microscope shopping

Since Phil has suggestions for holiday telescope shopping, I have to offer some suggestions for microscope shopping. If you really want to get a kid interested in biology, a microscope is a great gift, but I’ll give you the price tag right up front: $150 is probably the minimum to get a decent, low-end student scope.

First, a few don’ts. Don’t buy a microscope at a toy store, unless you want cheesy, cheap plastic junk. And probably the most important advice: don’t judge a microscope by the highest magnification. You’ll see lots of ads that shout “1500x!!!”, but trust me: you can’t get a good 100x objective (they get the 1500 by multiplying the 100x objective lens by a 15x eyepiece) for the prices most people can afford. I do most of my professional microscopy work with a 40x objective and 10x eyepieces — you can see much more with a hiqh quality, low power objective than you can with a high power, low quality objective.

When you’re shopping around, most of what you’ll see are called compound microscopes. These are the traditional kind of microscope you’ll see, and they’re often sold with sets of prepared glass slides. You’ll need slides in order to set up specimens, the specimens have to be very thin, and you visualize what you’re looking at by shining light through the specimen — this is called transmitted light microscopy.

You don’t want one of those.

I’ve owned several compound scopes, and they’re wonderful and they give great images…but it takes more prep work (in most cases) to set up the specimens, and you’re going to be much more limited in the range of things you can look at. Imagine that your kid catches a fly and wants to look at it; you can put the wings on a compound scope, but anything else, you’re going to need to cut thin sections or mount bits and pieces on a slide. It’s not fun for most young’uns.

What you want to be able to do is pop the whole animal on the scope and look at it in closeup. You want what is called a stereoscope or a dissecting scope. It’s an instrument that looks something like this:

i-d27451181affec29d87606fea6c76d0f-stereozoom.jpg

(That’s not the $150 model, I’m afraid—it’s the several thousand dollar high end model I use in my lab.)

These beauties have several features that make them a perfect scope for the young student. First, note the working distance, the space between the specimen and the lens. It’s tens of centimeters, enough space for someone to put their hand under there and look at nifty dermal papillae or scabs or their pet gerbil, without squishing or cutting them into thin sections. On a compound scope, you’ve got fractions of a millimeter.

It also uses epi-illumination, or light from above, and what you see is light reflected from rather than transmitted through your specimen. Again, this is to the immense benefit of the pet gerbil. It’s really that easy to use: put the object you want to examine on the base, turn on an illuminator (a desk lamp will work, even), and focus. No great delicacy required, nor do you need to do any special preparation. If you want to do transmitted light illumination, you can buy elevated stands with a glass plate where the black disk is above, and shine light from underneath.

A Leica Wild M3 stereozoom like the one above is overkill for student use, but you can find lots of good scopes at a range of prices at scientific supply houses. Look for educational microscopes; the student models are usually built to be fairly tough and low maintenance. You can find them at these fine institutions (I get no kickbacks from these referrals).

One other thing I’m sometimes asked is about photomicrography — you see something really cool in the scope, so you want to take a picture of it. There are inexpensive scopes with cameras built in, like the QX-5…which is sold in toy stores and looks it, and I can’t really recommend it unless you really want something quick and dirt cheap. You can also get good stereoscopes with built-in digital cameras, but camera technology is improving so quickly that it often means you are paying more than it’s worth to get an obsolet camera system.

I recommend getting really cheap at first and just getting a tripod. Take the camera you use for home photography, and just aim it down one of the eyepieces and take a picture. You’d be surprised at how well this often works. It’s hard to do well with a hand-held camera, though, which is why I suggest using a tripod.

Alternatively, there is a good market now for camera adapters for microscopes. These typically consist of a metal sleeve that attaches to the lens of your camera, and then slides over the eyepiece tube. Zarf Enterprises is the source for a range of different adapters, or if you’re good at shop and know how to mill metal, you can make your own.

Here’s one example of a picture I took a while back, of a freshly eclosed white mutant Drosophila. I just happened to find this pretty pale fly as I was working through my stocks, and on a whim, put her on the stereoscope and snapped a picture — it really is fast and easy.

i-965e9a52f515abb684e38fc546448389-white_drosophila.jpg

It’s also easy to zoom in and look at details, like the bristles on the head. Those microscopes that advertise 1500x magnifications sound impressive, but really, at that mag you’d be staring at a cluster of cells in one small part of a bristle, if you could even get something as large as a fruit fly’s head under the objective, and in a cheap scope, it would be a blurry smear.

i-b3fd37a74927b4fa096bd2062dd2b4d2-white_drosophila_head.jpg

Go ahead, give a kid a nice little microscope for squidmas (or christmas, if you choose to celebrate it) this year. It’s a wonderful way to get the little rascals excited about biology, and you’ll be entertained as they scurry about the house looking for the grossest, creepiest things they can find to look at. The joy on a child’s face as they look into a spider’s eyes for the first time…it’s priceless. Oh, and when they discover the parasites living in their eyelashes…!

Comments

  1. #1 Brownian, OM
    November 30, 2007

    Now that we’ve covered telescopes and microscopes, tell us everything you know about the following:

    Cinemascope
    cystoscope
    electroscope
    electrotachyscope
    endoscope
    fibrescope
    finderscope
    fluoroscope
    gastroscope
    gonioscope
    gyroscope
    horoscope
    iconoscope
    kaleidoscope
    kinescope
    kinetoscope
    laryngoscope
    oscilloscope
    Otoscope
    periscope
    phenakistoscope (phenakistiscope)
    praxinoscope
    Rotoscope
    spectroscope
    stethoscope
    stroboscope
    teleidoscope

    I’ve got a sixteen-year-old niece who wants to be a doctor, and I figure early exposure to endoscopy will make or break that career.

  2. #2 Ichthyic
    November 30, 2007

    Nikon DXM1200

    the camera is a digital camera.

    what you have to realize is that the camera essentially “photoshops” the image before you even see it, unless you bypass the camera’s internals entirely.

    the only thing I can suggest in an immediate sense is to make sure you are using the highest quality lens possible, with a good contrast ratio (that includes the scope). However, I have always found the most accurate reproductions are done by shooting in RAW format (only stores the raw image pixels, with no in-camera processing), and doing all the processing yourself in photoshop. I know, sounds like too much work, and is certainly not the “on the spot” recommendation you really want, but there it is.

    it simply always takes a bit of work to get a photo to match your own eyes’ (well, technically brain’s) impression of a scene. I’m sure the software you use, along with the camera, automatically tries to give pleasing and consistent results, but there is such variation in contrast, color, lighting, etc., even when taking slide shots, that relying on such will not always give the results you want.

    If you think you are at the end of being able to get good images with your current setup, and want to move on to editing the raw data yourself…

    If you need help with setups or workflows that ease the process and give you good results, just email me (I left it in the other thread you tried to contact me in).

    Personally, I gave up relying on a digital camera’s own electronics to give me a pleasing result about a month after I started using digital cameras to begin with. I only shoot in raw any more.

    it’s more work to do it yourself, but not hard to learn (especially with the raw editing tools around these days) and I am always more pleased with the end result.

  3. #3 Ichthyic
    November 30, 2007

    Nuts to the kids, I want a microscope of my own.

    LOL

    yeah, I do miss the Zeiss dissecting scope I owned 20 years or so ago (foolishly, I donated it to the biology lab at my old high school).

    too damned expensive to get a really good scope any more.

    I do occasionally see some good deals on scopes on Ebay.

    might try starting here, if nobody has mentioned it already:

    http://www.microscopestore.com/

    they have a decent used section.

  4. #4 thalarctos
    November 30, 2007

    Ichthyic, once again you demonstrate that I can always count on you for excellent information.

    The info on raw format was very illuminating–clearly, I have some learning to do about what’s under the hood of the camera which I had just taken for granted.

    However, I have always found the most accurate reproductions are done by shooting in RAW format (only stores the raw image pixels, with no in-camera processing), and doing all the processing yourself in photoshop. I know, sounds like too much work, and is certainly not the “on the spot” recommendation you really want, but there it is.

    Sounds like what I had envisioned just isn’t doable–to take an example from the old days, I was expecting to hear something like “make your aperture more narrow to increase your depth of field” to improve the photo as I took it. But it sounds like I was operating under the wrong “paradigm”.

    If “on the spot” isn’t the way it works, then I need to adjust the way I think of it, and I admit that it’s daunting to think about reshooting >5000 bear pap smear slides, but if that’s what has to be done, then that’s what I have to do. But I do have a question if editing raw files in PhotoShop after the fact is going to raise any eyebrows when it comes time to publish? That would be my only concern, after I get over the idea of reshooting that many slides in raw format.

    but there is such variation in contrast, color, lighting, etc., even when taking slide shots, that relying on such will not always give the results you want.

    yes, neither the PI nor I are pros at microscopy, and although we suckered^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hrecruited a pro cytotechnologist into helping us, it’s clear that we were both learning as we went. But I have gotten to the point that even to my untrained eye, the image looks so much better in the eyepiece than the same one on the screen that I realize I need to do something.

    If you need help with setups or workflows that ease the process and give you good results, just email me (I left it in the other thread you tried to contact me in).

    I will–I was already saving it in my surgery plan for an anticipated return to diving, but will be in touch much sooner.

    it’s more work to do it yourself, but not hard to learn (especially with the raw editing tools around these days) and I am always more pleased with the end result.

    I’m going to get used to the idea of reshooting that many slides, and really, my only concern is that I don’t want to be seen as improperly manipulating the images. If this is kosher in publication circles, then I’ll commit to learning it and carrying it out.

    Thank you, Ichthyic–you are, as always, a generous fount of useful info!

  5. #5 Ichthyic
    November 30, 2007

    Little wonder that science education is in such a bad state.

    ummm, what’s that now?

    You’re way off base here.

    microscopes are an expensive tool, and many of us miss the ones we had in our labs at various places.

    you not only missed the tone, you missed the message, and then made a hugely erroneous statement besides.

    yikes.

    one thing you COULD salvage out of that morass, is that indeed one of the reasons science education is on ever shakier ground is the lack of funding for things like microscopes to begin with.

  6. #6 Ichthyic
    November 30, 2007

    But I do have a question if editing raw files in PhotoShop after the fact is going to raise any eyebrows when it comes time to publish?

    again, if someone raises a stink, then they haven’t a clue how digital cameras work to begin with, as what the electronics in camera do when you take a picture is to essentially run very similar algorithms to what photoshop does in order to process the raw image into one mostly satisfactory to a general consumer.

    One could even argue that chemical processing of physical media coming from a film camera does much the same thing. there are many ways to develop a piece of film that can drastically alter its end appearance. Generally speaking, there are accepted “processes” (that are even named and numbered), in order to give standardized results in a film lab. Those processes, as I’m sure you know from any roll of film you’ve ever taken to be processed, do not always give the most accurate result.

    It works analogously inside of a digital camera; it’s just that the chemical processing of film images is replaced by software manipulation of digital information stored on an image chip. The digital camera manufacturers program their cameras to give a ‘standardized’ result that is generally pleasing to the majority of consumers (certainly NOT always the most accurate).

    Indeed, I could make a better argument that far more accurate results are obtained by bypassing the generally klunky software routines built into the digital camera in favor of using the far more powerful and precise tools available on a home computer. Again, analagous to film in that developing a roll of film yourself using your own equipment can often render more accurate results.

    Now, from a legal standpoint, it could be argued that a fixed processing scheme that produces standardized results, accurate or not, might be preferred. this does help remove the “subjectivity” out of the equation, and allows for easier reproducibility. going even farther, some photo publications, though no journals i have run into yet, actually require submission of raw images to begin with. Likely you should always check with the specific journal you intend to submit to wrt to their image submission rules.

    However, if you are intending to make your digital image actually resemble as closely as possible what YOU see when you look through the scope, you really have to do the processing yourself.

    you can always get a third party to check your work from time to time, to see if they think your reproductions are accurate from their standpoint.

    Moreover, you can standardize your process quite a bit, especially when taking lots of very similar images, and you can even record your actions if others wished to reproduce them for themselves.

    er, this is getting a bit more detailed than I wanted to go into here though.

    just shoot me an email and we can continue there.

  7. #7 Ichthyic
    November 30, 2007

    I am not sure if seeing that article requires an institutional login.

    nope.

    it’s available in pdf format too.

  8. #8 Jaycubed
    November 30, 2007

    “Little wonder that science education is in such a bad state.
    ummm, what’s that now?
    You’re way off base here.
    microscopes are an expensive tool, and many of us miss the ones we had in our labs at various places.
    you not only missed the tone, you missed the message, and then made a hugely erroneous statement besides.”
    Posted by: Ichthyic

    I do not think I am offbase and stand by my comments. This thread is about buying a microscope for kids. The vast majority of the comments have to do with the fantasies of adults. By ignoring the practical needs of children for their own fantasies, I think this is counterproductive to the education of children. Just because one is a scientist, or even an educator of adults in science, it doesn’t mean they understand the educational needs of children.

  9. #9 Ichthyic
    December 1, 2007

    I do not think I am offbase and stand by my comments.

    oh by all means, continue to stand by a pointless and egregious interpretation of harmless off color commentary.

    By ignoring the practical needs of children for their own fantasies, I think this is counterproductive to the education of children.

    LOL

    you’re a complete ignoramus if you think that’s what those comments meant.

    it’s an off color remark meant as a joke, fool. hardly intended to imply we should short change kids in favor of our own fantasies.

    perhaps there is a cultural divide here, but if not, I think you should stop before you embarrass yourself further.

  10. #10 Fernando Magyar
    December 1, 2007

    Hello Ichthyic,
    Man is there anything you don’t have expertise in? Sheesh! that is really good information you gave thalarctos re image editing, especially with regards using RAW format. I spent a decade in the 90′s working as a digital graphics consultant, went on to other things then a few years back spent 2 years working for ACD Systems Ltd., when I joined the company they had just purchased Deneba Software who had developed a high end scientific graphics package called Canvas. ACD See is more geared to mass market photo editing but their software is pretty decent and cost effective even for that. The current version of Canvas is Canvas 11 unfortunate ly they have discontinued their support for the Mac platform but their Windows version now includes their scientific module add on right out of the box. Don’t know if you’ve ever heard of this app but it has some really fabulous features. I fear that since the science market is a very small niche for ACD See they haven’t been keeping it up to speed as much as they should. Too bad cause this product is the swiss army knife of scientific image editing and creation. I did a year of tech support on it so I got to learn it in depth. I do not work for ACD See any longer but highly recommend it despite some quirks and a very very steep learning curve which is really because it does so many different things.

  11. #11 Ichthyic
    December 1, 2007

    masturbating to pictures of $4000 super-scopes

    more way off BS.
    you really like making an ass of yourself, eh?
    whatever floats yer boat, i guess.

    I thought it might be an issue of some kind of cultural misunderstanding, but I see you’re just an insistent moron.

    oh well.

    perhaps you should think about taking your concern trolling someplace else?

    just a thought.

  12. #12 Ichthyic
    December 1, 2007

    Man is there anything you don’t have expertise in?

    LOL

    Lots!

    it just happens to be that I’ve been forced to be quite adaptable in order to make a living over the years, and have had several different careers in the meantime.

    There are a lot of people with science educations in the same boat, several of whom I see post on this blog and related.

    for example, of the 6 people that were in my lab when I was a grad student, only one currently has a position in academia, the rest aren’t really doing anything even close to the research they were doing as a grad student (er, last I checked, anyway, and that was 15 years after I left that lab).

    Not saying that all of those 6, including myself, haven’t spent at least some time doing research since (I’ve had two different gigs since, for example, the largest being involved with behavioral/demographic work on sharks), but for those of us without permanent positions in academia, the issue becomes less “publish or perish”, than “adapt or die”.

    Not saying it’s impossible to make a scientific career in biology outside of academia, but it ain’t easy, that’s for sure. If I had it to do over again, I sure as hell would have listened more closely to my advisor about garnering a position within academia instead of trying outside of it.

    enough about that.

    ACD See is more geared to mass market photo editing but their software is pretty decent and cost effective even for that.

    I used to use that quite a bit once upon a time, mostly as just quick image viewing/organization software. I too would still recommend it. However, I find i have narrowed my purchases to only the things I absolutely need in intervening years, or have switched to open source stuff instead, and haven’t played with it for a few years now.

    Moreover, most of the OSes (XP, Linux flavors, OSX) these days have sufficient image organization tools built right in, and basic image manipulation software also included. For anything more complex, I usually just make my own organizational databases with HTML front ends.

    I use GIMP (open source), and photoshop for the rest. Adobe is becoming a black hole for anything related to image processing software anymore, even to the point of RAW processing software, so it’s hard to avoid as a required purchase for serious photo editing.

    It wouldn’t surprise me a bit to hear that Adobe had made a bid for ACDsee systems at some point in the last few years.

    I hope they become one of the few holdouts!

  13. #13 Ichthyic
    December 2, 2007

    The key point is the word “realistic”.

    sweet plastic jeebus on my dashboard, give it up already.

    do you actually enjoy belaboring a misbegotten point?

    not only were/are you off in your commentary here, you are continuing to make a fool of yourself by trying to defend it.

    hint:

    NOBODY agrees that the point you insist on foisting here is appropriate, accurate, or even relevant.

    now THIS:

    Children learn by playing and exercising their imagination. That is far more likely to happen to a kid with a magnifying glass in their pocket or a piece of “cheesy plastic junk” that they carry around with them. Children learn far more if they are shown the bare basics and then allowed to putz around by themselves:

    can be the basis for a productive discussion.

    do you have references to support your learning model?

  14. #14 Ichthyic
    December 2, 2007

    About RAW format, isn’t there some in-camera processing, sharpening the image for instance?

    it depends on the camera (a big part of the problem), but typically the standard, over the last 5 years or so, has been no secondary processing whatsoever (one does, of course, have to assign a preliminary color space, for example).

    no noise filtering, sharpening, white balance, color adjustment, etc.

    there is a lossless form of compression (which is noticeable if you produce an uncompressed TIFF, for example), but that’s about it. the rest is supposed to be interpreted via an external raw processing program that understands how the specific camera deals with storing unprocessed images. Again, how and what exactly is done depends a great deal on the specific camera involved, and one has to build literally hundreds of profiles in order for a commercial raw processor proggy to be viable.

    there is an movement to support an open standard for raw, which in part is driving how the camera manufacturers program cameras to produce raw images, and in part is driven by Adobe’s own model of the raw standard (based on DNG).

    http://www.adobe.com/products/dng/

    (wherein Adobe of course misinforms readers about the rather large open standard movement)

    http://www.openraw.org/
    http://www.rawformat.com/

    where we see the discussions of open raw standards.

    no doubt in the end Adobe will win the battle of the standard for raw, if for no other reason than the fact that every time a company is successful in producing software for raw processing using the open standard, they buy them up.

    there’s a fair summary on WIKI of the raw format too.

    so, bottom line, just exactly how much processing is done for a raw format image depends on the specific digital camera we are talking about, but the general direction in more recent cameras is towards the absolute minimum in processing.

    for those really interested in discussing this stuff (or anything related to photography, including micro-photography) further, I highly recommend the photo forums over on the Popular Photography magazine’s website:

    http://forums.popphoto.com/

    there are a great many threads discussing the issue, and a lot of helpful people there.

    I know that there are several folks there extremely well versed in micro-photography as well.

  15. #15 Ichthyic
    December 2, 2007

    About RAW format, isn’t there some in-camera processing, sharpening the image for instance?

    it depends on the camera (a big part of the problem), but typically the standard, over the last 5 years or so, has been no secondary processing whatsoever (one does, of course, have to assign a preliminary color space, for example).

    no noise filtering, sharpening, white balance, color adjustment, etc.

    there is a lossless form of compression (which is noticeable if you produce an uncompressed TIFF, for example), but that’s about it. the rest is supposed to be interpreted via an external raw processing program that understands how the specific camera deals with storing unprocessed images. Again, how and what exactly is done depends a great deal on the specific camera involved, and one has to build literally hundreds of profiles in order for a commercial raw processor proggy to be viable.

    there is an movement to support an open standard for raw, which in part is driving how the camera manufacturers program cameras to produce raw images, and in part is driven by Adobe’s own model of the raw standard (based on DNG).

    http://www.adobe.com/products/dng/

    (wherein Adobe of course misinforms readers about the rather large open standard movement)

    http://www.openraw.org/

    where we see the discussions of open raw standards.

    no doubt in the end Adobe will win the battle of the standard for raw, if for no other reason than the fact that every time a company is successful in producing software for raw processing using the open standard, they buy them up.

    there’s a fair summary on WIKI of the raw format too.

    so, bottom line, just exactly how much processing is done for a raw format image depends on the specific digital camera we are talking about, but the general direction in more recent cameras is towards the absolute minimum in processing.

    for those really interested in discussing this stuff (or anything related to photography, including micro-photography) further, I highly recommend the photo forums over on the Popular Photography magazine’s website:

    http://forums.popphoto.com/

    there are a great many threads discussing the issue, and a lot of helpful people there.

    I know that there are several folks there extremely well versed in micro-photography as well.

  16. #16 Ichthyic
    December 2, 2007

    About RAW format, isn’t there some in-camera processing, sharpening the image for instance?

    it depends on the camera (a big part of the problem), but typically the standard, over the last 5 years or so, has been no secondary processing whatsoever (one does, of course, have to assign a preliminary color space, for example).

    no noise filtering, sharpening, white balance, color adjustment, etc.

    there is a lossless form of compression (which is noticeable if you produce an uncompressed TIFF, for example), but that’s about it. the rest is supposed to be interpreted via an external raw processing program that understands how the specific camera deals with storing unprocessed images. Again, how and what exactly is done depends a great deal on the specific camera involved, and one has to build literally hundreds of profiles in order for a commercial raw processor proggy to be viable.

    there is an movement to support an open standard for raw, which in part is driving how the camera manufacturers program cameras to produce raw images, and in part is driven by Adobe’s own model of the raw standard (based on DNG).

    http://www.adobe.com/products/dng/

    (wherein Adobe of course misinforms readers about the rather large open standard movement)

    http://www.openraw.org/

    where we see the discussions of open raw standards.

    no doubt in the end Adobe will win the battle of the standard for raw, if for no other reason than the fact that every time a company is successful in producing software for raw processing using the open standard, they buy them up.

    there’s a fair summary on WIKI of the raw format too.

    so, bottom line, just exactly how much processing is done for a raw format image depends on the specific digital camera we are talking about, but the general direction in more recent cameras is towards the absolute minimum in processing.

    (sorry if this becomes multiple posts, I forgot that if there are more than 3 links in a post, it automatically gets held for PZ to gander at first).

  17. #17 Ichthyic
    December 2, 2007

    for those really interested in discussing this stuff (or anything related to photography, including micro-photography) further, I highly recommend the photo forums over on the Popular Photography magazine’s website:

    http://forums.popphoto.com/

    there are a great many threads discussing the issue, and a lot of helpful people there.

    I also recall that there are/were several folks there extremely well versed in micro-photography as well.

    If he’s still hanging about there, look for Dr. Jalapeno – he can direct you to just about anything your heart desires wrt to photography topics in that forum.

  18. #18 Jaycubed
    December 2, 2007

    “hint:
    NOBODY agrees that the point you insist on foisting here is appropriate, accurate, or even relevant.
    Posted by: Ichthyic”

    hint:
    Perhaps because they are thinking about themselves rather than thinking like a child. We do not think rationally about our own children. The results in our society are quite apparent. Religion often speaks to people as children, whether they are youngsters or adults. Perhaps religion is so good at perpetuating ignorance because they are speaking to children more effectively than does science. Perhaps that is why nearly half of all Americans believe that the Earth is 5000 or so years old despite the overwhelming evidence of science. Perhaps that is also why most of the rest believe a Fairy is still directly responsible for creating themselves even if the Earth is as old as science purports.

    And I have no problem with nobody agreeing with me. Being correct is not democratic: if it was then the god of Abraham must have created & still rules the universe (90%+ in U.S. and 55% worldwide believe this. Do you?)

    -

    “do you have references to support your learning model?”

    I would start with the classic Homo Ludens by Johan Huizinga. Also good are The Ambiguity of Play by Brian Sutton-Smith and Roger Caillois’ Man, Play and Games. I would also recommend spending time with children who are not your own, as everyone knows that your own child is “special”; they are the smartest, cutest, most talented, bravest…etc. child in human history.
    .

  19. #19 Ichthyic
    December 2, 2007

    Being correct is not democratic:

    indeed, but if one thinks one is correct in the face of constant evidence to the contrary, one starts to look like one has a Galileo complex.

    Perhaps because they are thinking about themselves rather than thinking like a child.

    wrong.

    We do not think rationally about our own children.

    irrelevant.

    The results in our society are quite apparent.

    irrelevant.

    Religion often speaks to people as children, whether they are youngsters or adults. Perhaps religion is so good at perpetuating ignorance because they are speaking to children more effectively than does science. Perhaps that is why nearly half of all Americans believe that the Earth is 5000 or so years old despite the overwhelming evidence of science. Perhaps that is also why most of the rest believe a Fairy is still directly responsible for creating themselves even if the Earth is as old as science purports.

    completely and utterly irrelevant.

    you’d sound far more intelligent without the ridiculous, completely irrelevant rants.


    I would start with the classic Homo Ludens by Johan Huizinga.

    primary lit, please.

    books rarely interest me.

    have you actually studied learning in specific, or just read books about it?

    In specific, I want to see the study that supports the idea that giving one child a plastic toy scope will encourage the other towards an interest in microscopes.

    seriously, I’m genuinely interested – has nothing to do with the unrelated idiotic ranting on your part, which you really SHOULD drop in favor of what you could possibly share about cognition and learning.

  20. #20 Ichthyic
    December 2, 2007

    I take it personally that most adults are so self-centered that they raise their children poorly

    but you are NOT drawing rational support for that conclusion from ANYTHING in this thread.

    stop it already.

  21. #21 Ichthyic
    December 2, 2007

    What is really more surprising is your expressed contempt for the learning of others.

    LOL

    i see.

    nevermind, I see you are infected by some sort of mental disorder that causes you to automatically make erroneous assumptions in order to justify making a rant.

    good luck with that.

  22. #22 Jaycubed
    December 2, 2007

    “I see you are infected by some sort of mental disorder that causes you to automatically make erroneous assumptions in order to justify making a rant.
    good luck with that.
    Posted by: Ichthyic ”

    As each statement I have made concerning you is based on your statements, which I accompany with your relevant quotes in my posts, and your responses have no supporting facts or ideas, merely childish reactions (“wrong”, “irrelevant”, “completely and utterly irrelevant”, “ridiculous, completely irrelevant rants”), it appears that it is you who might be suffering from “some sort of mental disorder that causes you to automatically make erroneous assumptions in order to justify making a rant”.

    ps.
    Another thing I find suggestive about your posts are the words you use in full capitals. “you COULD salvage”, “NOBODY agrees”, you…SHOULD drop”, “NOT..ANYTHING”

  23. #23 Ichthyic
    December 2, 2007

    Another thing I find suggestive about your posts are the words you use in full capitals. “you COULD salvage”, “NOBODY agrees”, you…SHOULD drop”, “NOT..ANYTHING”

    the only conclusion you should take from that is that I was trying to get you to engage on something relevant, that you yourself expressed an actual interest in sharing (mechanisms of learning in children).

    my mistake.

    again, good luck with that disorder of yours.

  24. #24 Ichthyic
    December 3, 2007

    Galileo was, of course, correct despite the constant evidence (the screaming of others) to the contrary.

    so you ARE suffering from a galileo complex.

    I figured as much.

  25. #25 Ichthyic
    December 3, 2007

    Sure, they laughed at Galileo. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

  26. #26 Jaycubed
    December 3, 2007

    Galileo was, of course, correct despite the constant evidence (the screaming of others) to the contrary.
    so you ARE suffering from a galileo complex.
    I figured as much.
    Posted by: Ichthyic”

    Not at all, it was you who compared me to Galileo. I never compared myself to Galileo.

    I merely thanked you for the comparison.
    .

  27. #27 Ichthyic
    December 3, 2007

    Barn Owl, perhaps you missed that Jaycubed essentially insulted everyone who had posted on this thread based on this, one, comment:

    Nuts to the kids, I want a microscope of my own.

    #38 by SMC.

    Jaycubed, based on that single, off color comment, then proceeded to indict all of us of not caring about children’s education, and being obsessed with masturbation over “4000 dollar microscopes”.

    perhaps you don’t take offense at horribly erroneous aspersions cast on your character, but I do.

    kindly take your concern trolling and shove it.

  28. #28 Barn Owl
    December 3, 2007

    kindly take your concern trolling and shove it.

    Your favorite comeback, isn’t it, Ichthyic? Someone disagrees with you, or fails to recognize your (undoubtedly) superior intellect and vast experience, and he or she is either a “concern troll”, or NOBODY, or an idiot.

    But I realize you’re a special little favorite here, full of expertise and wisdom on ever so many topics, so it’s probably good advice.

    Btw, I’m surprised you didn’t pull your usual compulsive triple or quadruple posts just now-it’s like some sort of situational internet tic.

  29. #29 thalarctos
    December 3, 2007

    Jaycubed, based on that single, off color comment, then proceeded to indict all of us of not caring about children’s education, and being obsessed with masturbation over “4000 dollar microscopes”.

    Yeah. I had killfiled him, but then took a look at his latest comment when Mr. thalarctos asked me “What’s this about you and Ichthyic and reacharounds?”.

    I’m not piling on anymore on anyone who is so bitter and damaged about what he missed out on in childhood that a group of adults congenially sharing information threatens him to the point where he’s got to hector us, not to mention the blatantly sexual imagery on a thread supposedly about children (masturbating, reacharounds). After all, there but for the grace of loving, caring adults, go I or any one of us.

    I will, however, defend myself against one blatant lie, so as not to assent by silence, but I won’t continue the debate–it simply wouldn’t be sporting.

    P[1]:

    “It is readily apparent that most of the “adults” posting here are more interested in (metaphorically) masturbating to pictures of $4000 super-scopes than finding what would best help their children to see & learn. This is little different from those right wing trolls (metaphorically) masturbating to their favorite expensive toys pictured in gun or truck magazines.”

    P[2]:

    Your comment reinforces my statements that the adults in this thread are posting about themselves & their fantasies rather than the educational needs of children. I was unable to find anything in your posts related to science education for children via microscopy. It is all about you.

    and P[3]:

    Your fantasy that I compared your adult scientific work to the desires of “right-wing gun nuts” is so silly

    So I was one of the adults in his invidious comparison (P[1], P[2]) at the same time that I wasn’t one of the adults in his invidious comparison (P[3]). P and !P, in other words. And creepy sexual crudities like “reacharounds” is just icing on the illogical cake.

    Sad. This was a really good and educational thread for a range of ages, up until then.

  30. #30 Jaycubed
    December 3, 2007

    Barn Owl,

    You are correct, I did misread your post. Thanks for pointing that out.

    -
    Iycthic,

    My interpretation was not from a “single off color comment”, despite the fact that I quoted it as representative of the tone of most of the posts in this thread. My comments were based on carefully reading every post in this thread. I acknowledged that several posts were concerned with what is best for children’s learning. Most posts were not, even if lip-service was paid to the needs of children.

    If you think my comments were insulting, show me where, using full quotations rather than the cherry-picking you usually like to perform. The only thing approaching an insult that I can find that I didn’t document concerned you & thalarctos’ mutual admiration/reach-around society. Here we go: “Ichthyic, once again you demonstrate that I can always count on you for excellent information.”, “Thank you, Ichthyic–you are, as always, a generous fount of useful info!”. As neither of these posts, as well as several others, have anything to do with the stated topic, I think my chacterization is accurate.

    I have repeatedly criticized the tone & content of many of these posts. That is not insulting. I have offered both suggestions for improving the chances of helping a child learn to love science & references/data to support my contentions.

    My comments were indictments, not insults like you love to toss around. If you have evidence to rebut my indictments than present it.

    I have often found you to be thin-skinned, always ready to “take offense at horribly erroneous aspersions cast on your character”. What you do not do is provide evidence that my assertions (rather than aspersions) are untrue.

  31. #31 Ichthyic
    December 3, 2007

    Btw, I’m surprised you didn’t pull your usual compulsive triple or quadruple posts just now-it’s like some sort of situational internet tic.

    That was actually explained in one of the multiple posts itself (multiple links, if you might recall – see #91 -, and for future reference, if you put more than 3 hyperlinks in a post, it automatically gets held back), and if you bother to look, isn’t exactly a pattern myself or anybody else here regularly exhibits.

    so, since you decided to take a poke based on a lack of reading comprehension, I suggest you take your poke and, well, shove it.

    you also failed to note the effort (#95) I made to try to get a discussion rolling from what jaycubed knew about children’s education in general (to discuss in specific the references he cited), which actually might have been an interesting discussion. Instead he chose to focus yet again on his erroneous contentions.

    I haven’t called you an idiot.

    yet.

    but if you insist on misreading the exchange, and ignoring all explanation of it, I’d be happy to, assuming you want to continue in the same vein.

    past that, I rather think whatever value there was in continuing here has long gone.

    jaycubed can think whatever erroneous things he wishes, but I for one am certainly never going to stand by and say nothing about it when he decides to spew his BS publicly, and then follow up by saying that his erroneous contentions are the basis for “what is wrong with education”.

  32. #32 Ichthyic
    December 3, 2007

    The only thing approaching an insult that I can find that I didn’t document concerned you & thalarctos’ mutual admiration/reach-around society.

    funny, but if you hadn’t started off with your idiotic and erroneous assumptions, supposedly based off of “careful” reading (more BS), and instead started off by starting a discussion about chilren’s education in general, citing references on point, you too might have had someone give you kudos for your contribution.

    instead, you chose to focus on a malignant misrepresentation based on some fantasy interpretation of the comments in this thread, got blasted for it, and instead of backing off to something more productive, chose to dig yourself into an ever deeper hole.

    I highly suggest you think twice before jumping in with such non-productive nonsense in the future, but given you don’t even understand what a galileo complex is, I rather doubt you capable of such in anything other than random fashion.

    again, I say, good luck with that.

  33. #33 thalarctos
    December 3, 2007
    The only thing approaching an insult that I can find that I didn’t document concerned you & thalarctos’ mutual admiration/reach-around society.

    funny, but if you hadn’t started off with your idiotic and erroneous assumptions…

    Oh, for fish’s sake, Ichthyic, are we having *more* reacharounds? Do I have to get him out of my killfile again to see what else I’m being accused of?

    The only thing approaching an insult that I can find that I didn’t document concerned you & thalarctos’ mutual admiration/reach-around society. Here we go: “Ichthyic, once again you demonstrate that I can always count on you for excellent information.”, “Thank you, Ichthyic–you are, as always, a generous fount of useful info!”. As neither of these posts, as well as several others, have anything to do with the stated topic, I think my chacterization is accurate.

    Well, I’m used to being told I’m rude on the interwebs, but this is certainly the first time I’ve been accused of blatant politeness. I can see why Hector is so upset.

  34. #34 Brownian, OM
    December 3, 2007

    I was going to say:

    For the record, PZ’s original post uses the word ‘student’ at least as much as it does ‘kid’. Last time I checked, students come in all ages. A technical discussion about high-end microscope technology is not out-of-place here.

    Neither is a discussion about early childhood education. But that topic could have been brought up without the attack on the other, Jaycubed. You could have said something along the lines of “those fancy ones are nice guys, but let’s not forget that the littler ones might enjoy something more durable to call their own,” and made the same point without causing such a fracas. People would likely have been much more receptive. Maybe you were cranky?

    but Prismatic, so prismatic already said it, so I’ll just warn you not make us have to step in here, because then we’d be like bailiffs on Night Court and two of us would have to die within the first three seasons, there’d be a fight over who would get to play Dan Fielding, and PZ would have to learn magic tricks and become a fan of Mel Tormé.

    I don’t think any of us here want that.

  35. #35 SwelP
    December 4, 2007

    I don’t like your implication.
    Perhaps you little boys would like to follow me around
    online.
    I stopped for coffee & e-mail in Santa Rosa this
    morning.
    After spending the day in traffic, I am in San Jose
    now visiting with family.
    If you are really that paranoid I will drop a line
    from Paradise when I get home.
    You seem clever enough to track me.

  36. #36 grinch
    January 26, 2008

    Hey – I picked up a USB “cheapy” off Ebay for $100. Not only is it a microscope, but a makeshift endoscope (depending on how big your nostrils are):

    http://www.metrak.com/tmp/nose.jpg

    It may not be the greatest fidelity but it was enough to gross out the kids.

    One problem is that to take a single picture, you click a button on the body of the unit which can blur the picture.

  37. #37 John Bradford
    February 16, 2008

    I came to this blog to gain some information on microscopes, and you can not believe my shock to watch it develop into a slagging match. On a scientific instrument blog!! For The Love Of God!!
    shame on you.

  38. #38 PZ Myers
    February 16, 2008

    Swelp/jaycubed? Is that you?

  39. #39 John Bradford
    February 16, 2008

    Havingg said that I tried the amera / tripod setup with a Sony Cyber at 25x on a ladybug and it worked really well with a bit of adjustment. Better than the adaptor for the stereo, though not the compound. That was great. Going to try video of flight prep next.

  40. #40 Estetik
    December 2, 2008

    Willy, you sound like the guy who traded up from a paper clip to a house! :)

    If anyone’s interested in photomicrography the easy way, get thee to ebay and pick up a Nikon Coolpix 4500. That was the last one they made that was easily compatible with microscope oculars (using adapters, of course, which you’ll also have to scavenge) but they ROCK. Incredibly easy to use and really good pictures.

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    January 4, 2009

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