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Manu under the microscope

Warning: This video could change the way you look at the world.

So if you're willing, take the deep dive into this New Yorker magazine video and story, which capture the curiosity-driven magic of Stanford bioengineering inventor Manu Prakash, PhD, and his low-cost microscope, called the Foldscope.

This deceptively simple invention is a bookmark-looking assembly made of folded cardstock, a tiny glass bead and a photo battery, that can take you on a fantastic voyage into the microcosmos.

Last year Prakash shipped free Foldscopes around the world, and created a cult-like following of people sharing their microscopic discoveries. The New Yorker article goes on to describe some of the ways that people are using this invention:

The Foldscope performs most of the functions of a high-school lab microscope, but its parts cost less than a dollar. Last year, with a grant from Gordon Moore’s philanthropic foundation (Moore co-founded Intel), Prakash and some of his graduate students launched an experiment in mass microscopy, mailing fifty thousand free Foldscopes to people in more than a hundred and thirty countries, who had volunteered to test the devices. At the same time, they created Foldscope Explore, a Web site where recipients of the kits can share photos, videos, and commentary. A plant pathologist in Rwanda uses the Foldscope to study fungi afflicting banana crops. Maasai children in Tanzania examine bovine dung for parasites. An entomologist in the Peruvian Amazon has happened upon an unidentified species of mite. One man catalogues pollen; another tracks his dog’s menstrual cycle.

If you'd like to explore with your own Foldscope, you’ll have to be patient. Prakash is still in the planning process of manufacturing and distribution. In the meantime, you can put your name on the round-two waiting list at foldingmicroscope@gmail.com.

Previously: Foldscope beta testers share the wonders of the microcosmosStanford microscope inventor invited to first White House Maker Faire, The pied piper of cool science tools and Stanford bioengineer develops a 50-cent paper microscope
Video by Sky Dylan-Robbins

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