Smart phones seem to do an endless number of amazing tasks for us these days. We can find the nearest Chinese restaurant or videotape our kid’s piano recital or stick the phone up to our car radio and learn what song is playing. With all of the fun and useful applications, sometimes I forget that you simply can use the device to dial numbers and talk to another person. But what if you also could use your phone to create a portable science laboratory? Apparently, you can!
Many of my crime novels feature a character named Emily Stone, who acts as a stealth vigilante in tracking down the most terrifying predators to roam our communities. She relies on the latest in communication and tracking devices and handles them all with ease. I believe that she would be fascinated to learn that, for around only $25.00 in materials, she could transform her cell phone into a microscope. A couple of years ago, a team at University of California at Davis, led by physicist Sebastian Wachsmann-Hogiu, used a piece of rubber, a small glass ball, some PVC tubing and electrical tape to craft a microscope that can capture images with the click of a phone.
The possibilities in the world of forensics, both fictional and in solving real crimes, for a makeshift microscope are exciting! Blood samples showing distinguishing cellular marks of disease could be sent to investigators to narrow a search. Hair, fingerprints, soil samples and other standard components of a crime scene collection could be more readily found and immediately sent back for processing. Small police departments already strapped for funding would have an inexpensive way to conduct research never possible in their hometown before.
Here’s the really cool thing – the researchers have shown all of us how to do it! If you want to turn your cell phone in a microscope, check out this article for step-by-step instructions with photographs. I’d love to know what you discover in your magnified observations. Respond in the comments or send me an email and let me know how it worked for you!
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