Onion Cells

I was fortunate enough to be accepted as an initial Beta tester for the Foldscope project.  I have two daughters who love science and I had been contemplating buying them a microscope when I first heard about the project.  I can’t describe how how excited I was to receive our Foldscope package in the mail.  It arrived just in time for the holiday season.  I loved that even the negative space around the assembly parts was filled with curious factoids. “There are more insects in one square mile of rural land than there are human beings on earth.”  What a great touch!

Unfortunately, my skills didn’t match my excitement.  It had been a long time since I prepared a slide or even read Biology.  I quit the subject when the good Biology teacher retired after I finished eleventh grade.  However, I still could remember the quintessential first subject one  typically examines with a microscope:  the onion cell.  It took no time at all to prepare the slide and find the cells with the low magnification lens.  I was astounded at the level of detail one could see.  The individual cells and nuclei were clearly visible.  I found the best way to share the experience with my children was to use the included LED light source (perhaps not as intended) to project the view onto a bare wall.  We loved it.

When it came to photographing the subjects, however, I found that was a little difficult; and I never really got the hang of it.  (Hence my apprehension to share our experience on the Microcosmos blog.) Below is the best onion cell photo that I was able to get.  I used the HDR setting on my cell phone to get this result. That setting seemed to help a lot. The cell walls are visible, but I couldn’t quite capture a nucleus.


The democratization of the microscale world is truly a praiseworthy ambition.  When the Kickstarter campaign was announced, I unhesitatingly backed the project.  We are looking forward to our deluxe Foldscope kit and many more discoveries.

One Comment Add yours

  1. ckurihara says:

    Thanks for unhesitatingly supporting our efforts. I understand the concern with the phone, as I have had similar issues – but if you keep at it you will find a way to get a good picture! It just takes practice, I have found, doing lots of slides of different things and trying lots of different ways to hold/support the foldscope and phone while doing the picture taking. I hope your daughters were as excited as you!

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