Cool Stuff To Look At Under A Microscope
If you’re tired of looking at premade slides or weird smelling bacteria solutions, then you’re in luck. There’s tons of cool stuff that can be looked at under the microscope!
In this post, we’re going to go over some everyday objects that look really interesting under a microscope. We’ll also talk about basic microscope use to make sure that you can actually see your specimens!
Cool Stuff to Put Under a Microscope
Honestly, most things are pretty cool once you toss them under a microscope and look through the eyepieces. Everyday objects become strange landscapes teeming with lines, geometry, and new colors.
Here are a few ideas to get you curious and inspired:
Salt and Spices
From a distance with the naked eye, spices, like kosher salt, look fairly uninteresting. But they have all sorts of ridges and textures that will only come out under magnification. Check out salt up close, for example, and you’ll find strange geometric structures that are surprisingly uniform.
Did you know that coffee grounds look like the surface of an alien planet? Yep, just place used or dry coffee grounds on a slide and get down into the nitty-gritty. You’ll find the shapes that allow the grounds to bond to water to form your delicious cup of pour-over.
Orange juice is the color orange, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, if you let a drop of orange juice dry out and stick it under the microscope, you’ll find a multicolored rainbow of textures and shapes. It’s a beautiful sight and a really cool way to learn about how color is just a product of illusions at scale!
You’ve probably seen the beautiful pictures of small, paper cutouts of snowflakes draped across fireplaces and living rooms. They remind us of the holiday season and make great crafts for kids. But you’ve also probably noticed that real snow, as it appears outside, doesn’t seem to be the individually unique snowflakes that you’ve heard about before. That’s true until you stick the stuff under the microscope. In that case, you’ll see the individual patterns and structures that snowflakes are supposedly famous for.
You probably know that yeast is a living organism which turns dry flour into tasty bread. But yeast also looks fascinating under a microscope when dry. You can also add a bit of warm water and sugar and let it sit for a few minutes to prep it for more interesting viewing!
Vinyl Records or CDs
We know that there’s tons of information on the flat disc structures that machines can transform into music; but we don’t get to see it with our naked eyes. Toss a vinyl under the microscope and you’ll see all the dust, grooves, and textures quite clearly. Tiny differences in the ridges form the difference between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones!
There’s an interesting category of things to look at under a microscope that we could call “things that look flat but aren’t.” There are so many objects that look flat to our 3D vision simply because we can’t see close enough to find all the ridges and inconsistencies in the texture. Clothing, book pages, and any pieces of paper will do the trick here. The ink from a magazine is also interesting to look at!
Using a Microscope Properly
It doesn’t matter how much cool microscope stuff you have if you can’t use the microscope properly!
How to Prepare the Objects
A compound microscope, like the ITI 2010B Biological Microscope, is built for close up magnification of components that have some transparency to them. Most of the objects on this list will be great for a biological microscope, although vinyls and rocks won’t have much visibility under a compound scope. A really powerful microscope, like the ITI-2041T Biological Microscope will get you even closer to the weird objects.
On the other hand, a stereo scope, like the ITI-3060A Zoom Stereo Microscope, will have less magnification power but doesn’t need light to soar through it to illuminate objects. You can see traditionally low visibility objects that are larger, like pieces of paper that are thick and 3D objects.
Stereo microscopes use light sources that come from around the object and not underneath it. You can usually place larger, 3D objects on the stereo microscope without preparing an individual slide. This makes stereo microscopes far easier to use over the course of a few specimens, but you pay for the ease of use and flexibility in a lack of power.
Compound or biological microscopes, on the other hand, require preparation. You’ll need to use special slides that have been prepared.
To prepare slides, you usually need a thin sheet of liquid or dust. Larger objects may have to be reduced in a bit of oil to get a good look. Usually a single drop of water is enough to make a specimen stick between two slides.
How to Adjust the Focus
If you have a straight compound microscope, you’ll be hovering directly over the object which can make it easier to find what you’re looking for. Moving the stage and slide on a curved compound can be a bit trickier.
Digital microscopes allow you to change the color, brightness, and contrast of the magnification with just a few buttons. Since the image is digitized, it’s really easy to cut through the noise and focus in on the data that you need. No complex focusing maneuvers required!
When you move the knobs, go slowly. Be careful that your objective lens doesn’t crash down into your slide. You can shatter the glass on your casing and even damage the lens in the process, especially your 100x lens.
Remember that when you’re focusing in on an object, jumping from 40x to 100x, much less 1000x, drastically reduces your field of vision. If your specimen is even slightly off-center, then you’ll lose it from your field of vision as soon as you drop to the next magnification level.
When you use the 100x objective lens, you’ll need to use oil immersion to lubricate the lens. Failure to do so can destroy your lens. You also won’t be able to get a clear image of the sample.
Some samples will require staining to get the structures to show up. Especially for a compound lens, which relies on light, you’re often trying to view objects that don’t have much visibility (because the light gets through). Using a drop of stain can allow structures to show up which would have been invisible before.
What to Look for When You’re Down There
Remember that any sort of dust or damage to the lens can easily become an artifact, interrupting the strange shapes that you should be looking for. Notice the ways that the specimen curves and moves. Adjust the focus to see some of the 3D shapes that are obscured by the standard compound microscopic view.
Digital microscopes, like the ITI-1080W WIFI Digital Microscope, even allow you to take pictures of the specimens to compare to other images later.
There you have it! Now that you know countless everyday items that look incredible under a microscope, keep the search going. There’s plenty of cool stuff to look at under a microscope that we didn’t mention; think outside of the box and let us know what you come up with!
Everyday items take on crazy new shapes and colors when seen through a microscope. Now that you know how to properly view those items and know of a reliable source for affordable and field-tested equipment, there’s no stopping you!