Space tomato

These are pictures of a leaf from a tomato seed which went to the International Space Station.

Calcium Ammonium Phosphate

This compound is often used as a fertilizer, especially if the soil is acidic. It can also be used in a cold pack (where I got the crystals). When the solid is exposed to water, there is an endothermic (cooling) reaction. Here I dried out the salt and used crossed polarizing filters to view the…

The Stuff of life – Vitamin B12

The red crystals are Vitamin B12, which we need for DNA synthesis and myelination of our nerve fibres. Vitamin B12, or Cobalamin, has a Cobalt group which gives this characteristic red color

Garter Snake skin

I found the entire skin of a garter snake in the yard. Here is a scary-looking picture of the skin. Even though the snake had long left the area, It was a bit scary picking it up. You can see even his eye was covered in the keratin “scales”

Penicillium roquefortii

Here are some of the fungal hyphae. At the top of the picture you can see one of the veins again and on the right some of the conidia. The pictures were harder to take then the Penicillium camembert pictures I posted earlier, because I had to dig a bit into the cheese. I was…

Penicillium roquefortii

This is Danish blue cheese, a milder version of the sharp blue cheese. Penicillium roquefortii is introduced to the cheese through wires, and in the front you can see where one of these wires introduced the blue “vein” of fungus. Here are some picture of the blue hyphae I took with the Foldscope. Here you…

Penicillium camemberti

This soft cheese is sprayed with an aqueous solution containing Penicillium camemberti to give it a soft, white coating. Here is a picture I took with the Foldscope of some of the scrapings of the coating. You can see some of the conidia and conidiophores.

Black knot fungus

This knotty, black growth on a tree branch is black knot fungus (Dibotryon morbosum). It infects cherry, plum, apricot and chokecherry trees and kills the infected part of the tree and provides a habitat for insects. Treatment is fungicides and cutting the affected branch several centimetres below the infected site.

Iron (II) sulphide from boiled egg

The dark ring we see when we overboil an egg is caused by the reaction of Iron in the yolk reacting with sulfur in the albumin. This produces Iron II sulfide. Here you can see the dark Iron II sulfide with plane polarized light And here is the birefringent Iron II sulfide under polarized light!

Ammonium dihydrogen phosphate

This molecule is used as a fertilizer. It is also used as a fire extinguisher, a piezoelectric transducer and in children’s crystal growing kits (where I obtained it). I took this photo with polarizing light and then rotated the polarizer to get the next picture.

Calcium chloride – polarized

This salt is used to give fireworks their orange colour, as a de-icer, desssicant and in heating pads. Not only is it hygroscopic, taking water from the atmosphere, but it is also deliquescent — absorbing so much water from the atmosphere as to form an aqueous solution. I made this slide with a glass slide…

Cellulose Insulation

Cellulose is treated with boric acid to make household insulation.  Here is a picture with plane polarized light.

Cellulose Insulation – Darkfield

Cellulose, treated with boric acid, is often used as housing insulation. Here is a picture with tangential illumination, creating a dark field effect.


This 5-carbon sugar used as a sugar substitute. Though found naturally in a number of foods, and a product of our normal metabolism, industrially it may be produced from wood and wood products. Here are two images with plane polarized and polarized light.

Maple Syrup with Polarizing lenses

As winter approaches, the Maples’ leaves change colors. In a few months, as it begins to warm, the tree produces a sweet sap which is boiled down to Maple syrup, over 100litres of sap are boiled to make 1 litre of the sweet syrup. After sitting out for a few days, it dries. Here is…

Sowbug (Wood Louse)

The “sowbug” or Woodlouse is a terrestrial crustacean, closely related to shrimps, prawns and lobsters. They shed their shell and produce compost and aeration to soil, and live in moist areas. Here is a picture of the tip of one of the legs Finally, a picture of the tip of the leg with cross polarizers.

Potassium bitartrate

Potassium bitartrate is a product of wine production. It has culinary uses such as in baking, uses as a cleaning product and can be mixed with henna to activate it. It can also be used as a primary reference standard for a pH buffer. The picture was taken with polarizing filters and plane polarized light.TartrateFoldscope

Psyllium husk (Ispaghula)

Psyllium husk is used to increase dietary fibre. Met analyses show it is of benefit for irritable bowel syndrome and decreasing LDL cholesterol. It is also of benefit in improving blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes mellitus.. Here are some images showing psyllium husk with polarized light, plane polarized light and a short video…

Wasp nest

Often seen as pests, wasps have an important role in pollination (especially figs) and can be used for biocontrol. Social wasps make their paper-like nests out of broken down pieces of wood and other material. Here I have the images of a nest with plane and cross-polarized light.

Cayenne pepper – polarized

This is the same image as previous, but with polarizers.CayenneFoldscopeMOV This is a short video clip. The music in the background is by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

Cayenne pepper

This image is taken with oblique illumination, giving a dark field effect.

Cotton Grass (Iceland)

CottonGrassFoldscope’ The tufts of this sub-arctic plant have been used for wicks in lamps. Here are some pictures of the tufts under the Foldscope.

Volcanic rock

This tiny granule is from Silfra Iceland, where the North American and Eurasia plates are slowly moving apart. I used polarizing lenses and the adhesive coverslip which came with the Foldscope that ended up acting like a compensator plate. I was struck by how smooth the granule (probably volcanic basalt) was and the colors produced…

Turmeric with movie

Inspired by others in the microcosmos, I too looked at turmeric and made a little clip with polarizers. It appears as though the pigmented material is localized in certain areas.

Magnesium Sulphate – Polarizing movie

For a few pennies, I was able to get some Epsom salts. I added water and let it dry on the slide and then viewed with polarizing filters. Magnesium sulfate is used medically for certain cardiac rhythm problems (Torsades des points), severe asthma, and in certain cases to protect baby when mother enters labor early….