#21 Microscope Camera

20 Points
banner image  (c) Phil Bendle 

Super-turbo-charge your wild eyes by turning your smartphone into a microscope camera! You will need supervision for this mission (get it: super-vision!)

Read the instructions

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What to do

Your mission is:

Magnify the power of the camera on your phone or tablet by modifying the lens. Check out the notes above for the tool-list and go micro!

1. GET DOWN WITH DAVE

Get primed for your backyard micro mission with the legendary David Attenborough, who guides us into the undersized underworld: "They build tower blocks that in proportion to their size are taller than New York skyscrapers!"

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2. CONTACT THE LENS

With an adult’s help, remove the batteries from your laser pointer or disposable camera (you can get a lens from here or try Trademe for cheap laser pointers, or here or here for a camera). Then: carefully disassemble its housing to pull the lens out. The focus lens is right behind the nose cone on a laser pointer – removing the lens may take a little fiddling! On a single use camera the lens should pop free when you open the casing.

If it refuses to budge, stomp on it a few times and hope for the best! Totally kidding: don’t do that!! 

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3. LENS FRIENDS

Wedge the lens between the prongs of a hairpin and gently place it over the phone or tablet’s camera lens so they become very close mates. 

It may be a bit tricky at first (the lens may pop out of the clip a couple of times), but be patient and you'll get there!

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4. PLACE THE PIN

Don't pull the pin (it's a lens not a hand grenade!), but place it carefully over the lens of your phone or tablet. 

Keep them together by taping the hairpin onto the phone. Switch to camera mode: your super-vision is ready to open its eyes!

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5. MAGNIFY-CENT!

Find something that you reckon might be fun to get a closer look at. Think about the micro-worlds you could get insight into (see what we did there). A leaf, shell, feather petal or dead insect (fly, cicada, butterfly or weta, like here) could be cool. What’s it like to see the world from a weta or ant’s point of view? An onion skin is eye-opening (and not just cause it made you cry!).

Natalie Po..roscope

6. MICRO EXPLORER

Be like Ant Man and check out your backyard at close range, without having to actually shrink yourself! Head out into the field and capture your backyard’s magnificent miniatures.  

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7. UPLOAD THE MEGA MINI MAGIC

Try a bunch of different wild objects and explore the micro world at extremely close range! Only submit the most mega of your micro results to Wild Eyes for everyone to see! 

Have a guess what this pretty in pink object is? 

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WILD FACTOR

Focus in on some curious micro details or hypnotic patterns and challenge your mates and parents to see if they can guess what it is.

What do you reckon this is? Clue: it's part of a coat for an animal whose name sounds like two cars put together and flies. (Oh and the pink pic above is quartz!) 

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PILES OF FUN

Make your own micro-camera stand by piling some books or magazines into two equal sized piles 2-3cm high. Put the item you want to photograph into the space between the stacks. 

Then place the phone or tablet lens on the stack of books, looking down over the subject. Your camera should be able to autofocus and show you all the beautiful details. 

TORCH TIP

A torch will help your phone or tablet focus on your subject.

What's happening?

NEEDLE SHARP VISION

Wild Eyes is all about seeing the world a little bit differently (especially not through square eyes!).

Ok sure – technically this is still looking at a screen, BUT you’ll be able to get an extreme close up view of different worlds in your backyard or local park, and get insight (in-sight! See what we did there?) (See! We did it again!! Tu meke!) into how flora and fauna live – or at least how they look through ultravision! 

These are the poisonous needles of the ongaonga (NZ stinging nettle) up close. You don't want to have a close-up encounter with ongaonga: these needles have enough toxins to kill a dog or a horse!

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– Ongaonga ouch!

IT'S SCIENCE NOT SORCERY!

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– Getting close up with a kōwhai flower

In simple magnification, light from an object passes through a biconvex lens (that's why your camera or pointer lens is curved like the back of a spoon) and is bent (aka refracted) towards your eye. It makes it appear to have come from a much bigger object.

Harry Potter eat your heart out!

MICROGRAPH MAGIC

A micrograph is a photograph of something seen in a microscope – sort of like the screenshot you take with your Wild Eyes microscope! Your camera won't be able to go this deep, but check these amazing micrographs for next level magnifying. 

BEE'S KNEES

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– You're the bee's knees baby!

You’ll be able to see veins and cells of plants (onion cells are super easy to see – if you can stop your eyes from watering first!) and get up close to insect eyes and antenna – maybe even check out the pollen on a bee’s knees! (Do bees have knees? Yes! But they don’t have kneecaps. If you find one, put it under your mega-microscope and see for yourself!)

IT'S IN THE BLOOD

When you look closely at the world, you can start to get a better idea how it works. 

Imagine how awesome it would have felt to see blood cells and micro-organisms for the first time, like Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek did in the 17th century with his trusty microscope (the original version of your smartphone/tablet and lens!)

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– Bloody good discovery Anthonie!

MY WHAT BIG TEETH YOU HAVE ANTONIE

Ewwwww – did you know Leeuwenhoek used plaque scrapped from his teeth to make these discoveries. So next time your Mum asks why you haven’t brushed your teeth you can tell her you’re doing it for science!

BFG THAT MICROBE

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– Pollen magnified 500x

Conventional microscopes like your sweet Wild Eyes one use light to illuminate the surface, and can be used on living samples. 

Other microscopes, like a transmission electron microscope, can magnify up to 5 million times! Imagine if you were 5 million times bigger than you are! It would be very hard to buy jeans that fit properly. 

Inspiration

ANT MAN

What do you think it’d be like to see the world from an ant’s point of view? Ant Man knows! Check out these clips from the Marvel-ous movie (warning: contains awesome)!

EARS ON YOUR KNEES?

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– Kneed a hearing aid?

Did you know that weta have ears on their knees? If you find a dead weta (or you’re very patient and gentle with a live one!) you could take a picture of their ears with your microscope camera. 

MICRO MANIC

There are trillions of mini-animals and microbes that are so ridiculously tiny that you can’t see them without the help of some serious microscope power. This micro world includes viruses, bacteria, protists, microscopic fungi and mini-animals. Next time you're chewing mud consider that a teaspoon of good-quality soil contains billions of microbes!!  

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– Getting down and dirty with soil fungi

MICROBAL BATH HEATER

Imagine getting three or four of your mates under a blanket and rolling around: you get pretty hot right?  So do all the microbes interacting in the soil. Check out this guy from Why Waste NZ heating his bath using the free energy from microbes in his compost heap. Another cool way to ‘see’ this mini-life in action is to soft boil an egg in a compost. (Your call whether to give this egg to your parents for breakfast in bed!)

THE TRUTH ABOUT LADYBIRDS

Think that ladybirds are cute as? Well look closer and you'll discover that the pretty insects are disease ridden cannibals! Just goes to show, that looks can be deceiving!

Actually ladybirds are pretty helpful in the garden, eating pesky pests like aphids.

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– Orange-spotted aphid assassin

PRETTY IN BLUE

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– Blue face-paint for the birds and bees

Insects, rocks and feathers can make interesting micro subjects, and so can flowers. Aotearoa's flora contains some fascinating and beautiful micro-worlds.

Did you know that the flower of the kōtukutuku (tree fuchsia) has the only pollen in the world that is blue? Did you also know that it's the biggest fuchsia in the world? Did you also know that the petals change colour when a bird like a tūi has taken the pollen: to let the birds know to move on... "nothing to lick here, better luck over there!"

This plant is a Guinness Book of Records with petals!    

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