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  1. Philip george says:

    I never thought that a pollen grain would look so deadly !!

    1. Paul Joseph says:

      I know right! I too had no clue that it looked like that!

  2. Manu Prakash says:

    Beautiful. @laks: did you see this.

  3. laksiyer says:

    Yes this is really nice and quite a coincidence. I was just finishing up with new entries into the pollen database and measured that the Hibiscus I looked at made pollen of size 120 microns— largest this far. The interesting thing I noticed was that in some pollen, the surface spikes were clear whereas in others there was an apple-like depression. It puzzled me that the apple-like ones didnt show the spikes!! Perhaps one should do a composite image from different focal planes to get a full picture… perhaps the pollen has some interesting asymmetry, or is it that these guys make two types of pollen– one for the bees and one for pollinating (I have been having this untested hypothesis, need to disprove it) ? BTW, can you please see if you notice this second type or if you can get “spikes and apples” in one pollen? Also, if you take a picture of a foldscoped petal and the flower, I will be happy to include it in the database (your picture is way better than what I have) with acknowledgements, geographical location and notes.

    BTW, the pollen database has reached 70 plants and might go up a bit once I upload all my pics.

    1. Paul Joseph says:

      Will look out for pollen grains with spikes and apple like depressions. What exactly do you want me take a picture of? just the petal of the flower along with a photo of the flower itself ?
      you are welcome to use any of the pictures I upload 🙂
      also could you tell me what you meant by a composite image from different focal planes to get a full picture ? sorry, I’m a schoolboy so i don’t know much about microscopy.

    2. Paul Joseph says:

      @laks; hey laks, I’ve had a really busy school schedule in the past month. I had taken the pictures on my phone a few weeks ago but couldn’t get myself to upload them.

      I’m sorry of the delay, but here are the pictures:

      1. Plant in normal conditions:

      2.low mag image of the petal:

      3.High mag image of hibiscus petal:

  4. laksiyer says:

    I just made a quick histogram of the size distribution of pollen using a dataset of about 40 plants for which I have measurements of pollen size. Just an FYI for those who see pollen.. Sizes are in microns.

  5. laksiyer says:

    Hi @Joseph
    Yes take a picture of the flower/ plant in its normal settings, e.g.


    and a picture of the petal or any other interesting features you see on it. e.g.


    A composite picture is one derived from many pictures of the same object at different planes of focus. There are free sofrware, such as ImageJ that will just combine these and keep the best focussed parts giving you a picture where the object is well defined .. There is a wonderful post by Manu on this matter.

    Try it, its fun.

    A very envious ex-schoolboy.

    1. Paul Joseph says:

      @laksiyer okay, I will post pictures of the flower/plant later today. thank you for explaining ! I will definitely try it out.

  6. Manu Prakash says:

    @Paul: You are amazing at microscopy – school boy or not. You have gifted hands; so always keep exploring. I am absolutely amazed at this image. It’s scary as hell; and so beautiful – all at the same time.

    Paul: Laks is referring to this trick that I had described in my earlier posts for making multiple images at different focusing plane and using software to make a single composite image. See this: https://microcosmos.foldscope.com/?p=7830

    @Laks: 120 microns – I am just baffled. I am trying to find a reference for the largest pollen known to us, and can not find anything substantial. What I find fascinating is that the hydrodynamic radius truly matters in transport of pollen; since drag is proportional to size. I wonder if historically, plants had pollen which was much larger (a lot of pollen fossils have been found). I will keep searching for the largest pollen.

    Finally, you have been inspirational in setting up a true project – I need to contribute to the pollen database. Lot’s of data coming your way soon. If you could refer us all to some kind of a simple plant tree of life and simple identification key cards; that would help.


    1. Paul Joseph says:

      @Manu: I will definitely keep exploring. you guys truly did open the doors of microscopy for me – thanks. The composite images of different focal planes is a neat idea, will surly try it out.

  7. laksiyer says:

    @Manu. I dont know of a source which is reliable, but there are bigger pollen (e.g. the four o clock plant). I suspect the larger the pollen the more likely that they will be insect borne for pollination. However, Insects, esp. bees, also consume pollen for nutrition, so it has to make enough pollen for pollination and for consumption. There is a strong correlation between the rise of flowering plants and the diversification of certain insects families.

    I havent been able to find a single and easy source for plant identification. For India, fhttp://flowersofindia.net/ is fairly good. For north america, there are so many databases.

    All of these are not intelligent databases, you have to trawl through them. I just try to ask a naturalist.. they can lead you to an approximate answer from where you can refine your google searches to be more accurate. Wish there was some image searching database. Looking forward to more data. Over here, with fall the floral diversity is low. We need many such foldscope projects. One thing that I have been wanting to do is from a conversation that we had, the total foldscopable microbial species count in a fixed volume of a natural body (water, soil)..

  8. laksiyer says:

    Hi @Paul. Great, will upload them, give me a location too. I know school can be tough, so when you can chill out with the foldscope 🙂

    1. Paul Joseph says:

      hey @laks, The plant in from my garden in Kochi, Kerala, India.
      Foldscope has definitely made microbiology a lot of fun !

  9. laksiyer says:

    Great will put it up. Kochi/Ernakulam was one of my favorite towns as a kid. Try to foldscope life in the backwaters and also the arabian sea. The insect life is also remarkable there. You have a lifetime of foldscoping ahead of you.

    1. Paul Joseph says:

      🙂 @laks, did you live in kochi as a kid?
      I actually live quite close to the Arabian sea, you can expect to see a lot from here !

  10. Manu Prakash says:

    @Laks @Paul: I am delighted to know that you both know the same town. Ironically, I have also been to Kochi; and can still remember my visit. It’s an incredible place – and only fitting if some of its biodiversity is documented.

    Keep exploring. Can’t wait to read a post about the Arabian Sea 🙂


    1. Paul Joseph says:

      @manu, I will definitely be posting my findings in the Arabian sea. Since the foldscope set you sent me included two foldscopes, I gave one to a friend, the two of us are planning to go to the Arabian sea one of these days to explore. The only thing I’m scared about is if the foldscope gets wet, will it get soggy and rip up? or is it waterproof by any chance? i really don’t want to spoil my foldscope.

  11. laksiyer says:

    Hi @Paul. I used to Visit Ernakulam and Trichur yearly as a kid… Bus rides, coconuts, backwaters, snails and monsoon…good memories.

    1. Paul Joseph says:

      @laks, its funny because when you live here you take all of that for granted ! Anyway nice talking to you!

    2. Paul Joseph says:

      oh cool! it’s funny because you take all of that for granted when you live here 😜😄

  12. laksiyer says:

    Hi @Paul. I am putting up your pictures but they seem to have disappeared from the links below, could you resend the links to the plant and the petal?


  13. laksiyer says:

    Hi @Paul. Dont bother, I figured it out using the source. I hope you can contribute more to the database. There are many unusual plants in teh western ghats. The link is here
    Best viewed in chrome. For some reason firefox messes up the table.

    1. Paul Joseph says:

      Wow the database looks great ! I’ll be on the lookout for any unusual plants 🙂

  14. Manu Prakash says:

    @Paul: don’t worry about water. foldscope is waterproof. If it gets wet; just dry it with a tissue paper and let the lens dry as well. It will be as good as new 🙂


  15. Manu Prakash says:

    @Paul: I am excited to see what you will share from the Arabian Sea. This world is a very unusual place; I am sitting on a California coast and a continuous water body connects you and me. It’s just a very very big water body – but it’s continuous none the less. How interesting..


    1. Paul Joseph says:

      @Manu: That truly does put things into perspective. It sent a shiver down my spine the first time I read it!
      Speaking of which, I went to the Arabian sea yesterday but when I tried to look for something under the foldscope I could see absolutely nothing, I took the water from the sea and put it on a piece of tape and looked at it through the high magnification lens as well as the low magnification lens. I spent almost an hour looking for atleast algae – but i found absolutely nothing. I wanted to know if I am doing something wrong or if there actually is nothing in the water, which is highly unlikely as the water there is far from sterile.

      Could you try to help me figure out why I couldn’t find anything ?


  16. Manu Prakash says:

    @Paul: great question Paul. I love the question “is anybody out there”..

    Usually to sample ocean water; you should use a simple plankton net. Now; @Matt on the site is an expert on making cheap plankton nets (I asked him to describe his); but you can make a simple one using fine stockings. The idea is to filter through the water to catch the swimming larvae, zooplankton – anything you can find.

    Here is one simple description:

    Another one:

    Now – these are really pro; you just need a simple filter. I would start with going to a rocky area; where algae would be growing on rock surface anyway and water splashing on the same. A million things would be growing and crawling on to the rock and back to the ocean.

    Wait till you see your first thing from the ocean – it will remind you of the movie “alien”..

    I can’t wait.


    1. Paul Joseph says:

      @manu; I didn’t know that you needed to filter out the plankton and other things from the water, I just took the water and directly tried to view it under the foldscope; no wonder I didn’t find anything.
      and @matt; thanks a lot for sharing your detailed procedure. I hope Ill be able to find something next time.

      Although I might not be able to go to the beach anytime soon as my school exams are starting, I’m sorry @manu, It might take a while for my next upload since right now I really need to be focusing on my school work. I’m in year 12 hence the coming exams are crucial for me. As soon as my exams get over I’ll be back online!

  17. Matt.Rossi says:

    @Paul, I’ve had really good luck searching for plankton in the sea by using the methods @Manu sent you to build a simple plankton net. I’m going to post in a few days about some of the equipment I’ve used for hunting in the ocean, but my own plankton net is little more than a cloth lamp with the electronics removed, and a jar duct taped to the bottom.

    Depending on what your beaches look like, you can catch things by tossing it into a tidal creek and letting the flow of the tide strain water through it (this is how I catch plankton in the East River in NYC), or you can toss the net into the water and drag it by walking along the shore. I recommend in either case doing some night hunting. It’s my understanding that a lot of tiny ocean life hides during the day and comes out at night. Which makes sense when you consider how many of them are food for the larger animals.

    If you can’t build a plankton net, though, I have one more technique that has served me very well for catching plankton: catch sea foam. If you walk along many beaches at low tide, particularly those connected to a tidal creek, you’ll find pools that contain thick bits of leftover sea foam. This is formed out of plant proteins that get churned up with the water into bubbles by the action of the waves and the current. This foam, though kind of gross seeming, tends to trap plankton, because the natural surface tension of the water, aided by the proteins, effectively form a net.

    Try scooping up some of this at low tide, mixing it down into sea water, and then letting it settle for a few hours. While you’re at it, you might try shaking off any seaweed deposits the tide leaves, too. At first, it might look like you’ve just caught a jar of murk, but you’ll eventually notice specks moving in the water. If you don’t, try looking at the jar in the dark and shining a light through the side. Plankton become very visible when side lit (and for some reason, many marine plankton seem attracted to artificial lights; I’m reminded often of looking at some kind of underwater version of my porch light in summer).

    Good luck!

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