So you got a lidl microscope for Christmas and you are wondering what you can do with it? There are lots of websites out there that can help you get the most out of your microscope. Just goggling “amateur microscopy” will bring up 28,000 hits so there is plenty of stuff out there. A great place to start is “Emergency Kit of Things to See – What Can I see with my new microscope?” This is on the Microscopy UK website, which has a whole host of articles and information, although the site itself looks a bit dated and it is worth digging around to see what you can find.
If you are just starting out you’ll probably need to refer to the manual which gives the technical names for all the different parts of the microscope. If you want an online resource a good picture describing what all the bits of a microscope are called visit Make Magazines –Choosing a Microscope article. A useful site, if you are just starting out is “The Microscope on a Budget”, the information itself is a bit dated but it covers all the basics, the section on slide microtechnique is good.
If you are looking for some inspiration then check out amateurmicrography.net, in fact if you only click on one link, click this one, their image gallery is stunning. They also have a “Beginners” section on their forum which is a useful place to get some tips and a large and well explained links section. If you have just got a new microscope you might like to know about the Postal Microscopical Society, which has been running since 1873, if you join they will send you a box of microscope slides (roughly every 3-4 weeks) for you to look at, comment on and send on to the next person in the club. It costs £20 to join, so its not too expensive. If you are looking for somewhere to buy slides, accessories stains etc then Brunel Microscopes are a good place to start. I’ve bought prepared slides and stains from them and have been very happy with the service. They do a range of kits aimed at the beginner.
If you have found some dead house flies than a good website is the Anatomical Atlas of Flies, if you have broadband click on the “Atlas” in the yellow box on the top right hand side, you then get a cool graphic describing the proper name for the bits of different flies, It is an Australian project and I don’t know how much of the information applies to British houseflies, but none the less it is an impressive project.
Even if you don’t have a microscope the following links are interesting (you can see what the professionals can do!) The major microscope manufacturers run competitions every year and the entries are stunning, Nikon’s is the most famous, Olympus also run a similar competition. If you want to check out some human cells have a look at Ed’s Basic Histology website or Nikon’s Pathology on MicroscopyU.
The Pharmaceutical Collection has images of common drugs crystallised and photographed under the microscope, including some chemotherapy drugs like doxorubicin, taxol,tamoxifen and methotrexate. I love the images on this site, but the descriptions of the drugs side-effects are unnecessarily harsh and were clearly written by a scientist and not a medic. Not everyone gets all the side effects mentioned on this website! In a similar vein is a website called “The Medicine Cabinet” (without the doom laden side effect text), with some stunning images of everyday drugs. For a description of how to look at crystals under your own microscope using a Ferrero Roche chocolate box visit “Crystals Under the Microscope by Tony Saunders –Davies”.
That list should be enough to get you going, if you know of any other good websites please let me know, leave a comment below or email me using the contact form. Perhaps we could set up a North East microscope society?