Peanut butter and jelly. Sonny and Cher. Black and white. Love and marriage. Science and the microscope.
With all of these, you can’t, as the classic tune declares, have one without the other. And that’s especially true when it comes to investigating and studying the physical and biological world — you simply can’t do it without a microscope. Yet this vital tool is still extremely costly, is cumbersome to transport, and is very fragile.
Until now. Stanford University scientist Manu Prakash has created a paper microscope called the Foldscope, which can magnify things up to 2000 times, be assembled in minutes and costs just 50 cents to produce, according to Durable and waterproof, this new type of microscope can especially come in handy when used by traveling doctors or scientists.
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Perhaps even more exciting? The bioengineer has initiated the “Thousand Micrososcopes” effort, which calls on 10,000 participants to test the Foldscope in a variety of settings to help create a open source biology/microscopy field manual. (Anyone can apply.) As it says on the website, the aim of Foldscope is “democratizing science by developing scientific tools that can scale up to match problems in global health and science education.”
Here’s to hoping the Foldscope (which looks like a toy and folds like origami) stimulates the next generation of budding scientists and inquisitive young minds — or anyone who wants to zoom in a little closer on molecular life.