Breathing Life into Old Working Microscopes

We had fun today calling on a horse breeder’s laboratory and working on his very old (40 years?) Bausch & Lomb compound microscope. The doctor does semen analysis, blood work, and examination for parasites on the animals he cares for so this microscope has been doing some heavy lifting for many years. It is gratifying to see that even a grand old ‘scope like this one can still be serviced professionally by us and come out swinging for more years of service. The design and craftsmanship on these older instruments includes steel and brass on the important wear areas – unlike modern laboratory microscopes, which are made (often in the Orient) with cheap, plastic materials. Such a shame – BUT this is one big reason why it is paramount to have your newer style microscope professionally serviced SEMI-annually (every six months). In this way, misbehaving plastic wear parts can be tracked and corrected before they become a killer problem for your microscope.

If you are in the Southwest and you need help with your Microscope call us Toll Free: 1-800-WOW-MICRO

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Snazzy Spring Colors

Hi folks! Spring is springing forth and a pine tree near my backyard just seems to be getting greener and greener as the cold nights give way to more balmy temps. Every night on my walk I have been looking at it and asking myself, “what would a cross section of one of those pine needles look like under the microscope?” So here it is – our episode on pine needles and other interesting things about pine trees. I had hoped to do more work using the scanning electron microscope, but each one of the pictures you will see, takes about 20 minutes to take before we can string them together in a “video” series – so like many of the episodes we feature on Backyard Microscope, we will have to revisit the topic in a future episode to add more interesting things. As always we want you to Contact Us! We want to know what you think – what you would like to see because this blog is about you, and delivering to you the unseen world from our backyard to your screen. Help us get more views by subscribing and then passing this on to others who might be interested. But most of all – thanks for reading and watching!

Termite Hyper Design

Hi Folks, Here’s an update to our Episode 3c on Termites that you will find very interesting!

The video (shown below) is actually a very nice example of design with respect to termites (all the silly cladistics and other so-called explanations aside). Anoxic microbes living happily inside the gut of a termite that not only lives in an oxygenated environment itself, but which also provides an nicely designed anoxic environment through internal processes that metabolize the oxygen which otherwise would kill the very microbes the termite needs to survive in its gut! Moreover, termites are hatched WITHOUT these microbes, and they only get them when they are fed to them by other termites – PLUS THESE MICROBES EXIST NOWHERE ELSE ON EARTH! So how did the original anoxic microbes get into the original termites?? No explanation of how these anoxic microbes somehow crawled across oxygenated areas to finally get established inside the termite can be given. Great design example!

See: part 13:30 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOf9eJGHHUU

See our Termite episode at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkxJoIm6I0A

 

Autofluorescence Reveals Some Cool Things!

In the image below we see a shard of plant material from a hay infusion (see latest YouTube episode for info) under regular microscope lighting. There’s not much detail other than cell walls and maybe some green chloroplasts, right?!

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But what if we expose this plant material to UV light under the microscope? Most tissues, including plant tissues do something really cool. They give off light (usually in a longer wave length than the light they are hit with). This is called autofluorescence and we can actually use this property of tissue to gather interesting information. In the image below the same tissue from picture 1 (above) autofluoresces and reveals the plant stoma which are the guard cells on the plant surface. These guard cells open and close to allow gas exchange between the plant and the environment.  Pretty cool, huh?

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For this and other interesting and fun microscope adventures follow this Blog:

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Episode 3B – Hay Infusion/Dark Field

Here is your opportunity to learn how to make a hay infusion which will yield many cool microbes for microscope viewing. We also show you how to convert your microscope to darkfield for mere pennies. But our favorite part of this episode has to be the beautiful autofluorescence of microbes.

Episode 3C is already in preparation!!

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UPDATE FROM UNDER THE LENS

Hi Folks,

We’re working hard on Episode 3: Microbes!! We plan to investigate different ways to image Microbes under the Microscope. Below you see a picture of a drought tolerant plant called Dusty Miller. Microbes are abundant even on the dry surfaces of this Xerophytic (drought resistant) Plant.

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For this experiment remove one leaf from the plant, like this:

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Now soak the leaf in a dish filled with distilled water for 6-8 hours. Make sure all leaf surfaces are covered with water. Next, pipette out one or two drops of water directly from the leaf surface.

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Place your drops of water on a clean microscope slide, coverslip and examine under the microscope at high (40x objective or higher) magnification. Although for this picture we used a fancy microscope that can do Nomarski contrast you should get some excellent results.

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Even the dry surfaces of drought resistant plants are covered in bacterial microbes!!

Episode 3 will be available soon on our YouTube channel at Backyard Microscope. So get your microscopes warmed up and ready to explore microbes and stay tuned.

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Be sure to keep in contact with us at backyardmicroscope@gmail.com. Let us know how you did Under the Lens!!