Monday, 28 December 2015

Azure ingots for Christmas

This picture will be very familiar to many, as it shows some distinctive crystals of copper sulphate. They are known due to their very characteristic deep blue colour and their oblique rectangular formations.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

No sweat

Sweat glands are located all over the body in the skin. In some places they are relatively common. Thus one finds about 300 sweat glands in 1 cm² of the skin of the palm, and on the back only 50. They are located in the lower layer of the dermis.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Polarization Contrast - Coloring your sample

Polarization Contrast is an affordable and easy contrast method to detect birefringence, which is a material characteristic that can be found in minerals, crystals, plastic foils, fibres, but also in botanical and biomedical samples.

Birefringence is based on the crystal structure of the material, or on the organized pattern of macromolecules within an amorphous matrix.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Living apart together

Volvox Aureus is a Chlorophyte, or green alga. It exists as a grand spherical colony. Each little alga within the colony bears two flagella, whip-like hairs. The individual algae are connected to each other by thin strands of cytoplasm that enable the whole colony to swim in a coordinated fashion. The individual algae also have small red eye spots.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

MoticEasyScan: A one-click scanner for producing and sharing high-quality digital images

Digitization of “classical” glass slide information is a hot topic in recent cytology, histology and pathology. Big machines for high throughput environments are available from multiple suppliers.

The advantages of digital data are obvious: safe storage of fragile patient information, ready for a worldwide exchange and long-term scientific work. Clinical analysis may be shared, a second opinion from a remote expert is easily available. Independently, a second field of application for such scanners may come to mind. Digitized slides are an easily accessible tool for university teaching. Hundreds of

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Bronze rot in a Carolingian disk fibula (800 AC) found near Maastricht

This disc fibula with animal motif is made of copper alloy and is inlaid with glass paste. The metal exhibits severe corrosion and is brittle. Saccharification has occurred in the glass paste and bronze rot is present. Bronze rot usually is

Monday, 23 November 2015

How important is the correct identification of the different blood cell types?

The blood forming cells can follow different development pathways, called ‘cell lines’. The main examples are Myeloid, Erythroid and Lymphoid. For example the first cell of the myeloid series is the Myeloblast (Blast cell), and as these cells develop and divide they differentiate into the distinct functional myeloid cells such as Neutrophils, Eosinophils and Basophils. Other mature cells such as Monocytes, Lymphocytes and Red cells come from the other cell lines.

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the myeloid line of blood cells, characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells that accumulate in

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Pollen give honey its fingerprint

Bees collect pollen from flowers and trees. They carry them along as yellow balls at their legs. The granules (also known as pollen) are not only of vital importance for the bees, the unique mixture also contains very useful substances for man.

An important element of honey research is pollen analysis. Under the microscope it can be determined precisely, which are the carrying plants of the pollen and from which region they originate. Both the botanical and the geographical origin of the honey is determined. The work of the beekeeper can also be reviewed and monitored on manipulation of honey, such as honey filtration or addition of pollen.

Monday, 2 November 2015

The C-mount - a needful thing

For beginners, the combination of a light microscope with a digital camera includes some surprises. There are obvious discrepancies between the visual impression in the eyepieces and on the screen respectively. These discrepancies are about color impression and image section.

The color impression in the eyepieces may be taken as a reference and depends on the color correction of the objective. The Plan Apochromatic lens design gives best preconditions for maximal color fidelity and resolution. The imperfection of a secondary spectrum, caused by the usage of white light, is compensated for 3 colors, while spherical aberrations are corrected for 2 wavelengths. The result is an impressive image quality without any colored fringes. Especially in colorless black/white samples the absence of secondary spectrum becomes obvious. However, for price reasons, it is the Plan Achromatic quality level of a modern Infinity System which sets the point of reference for most users.

Many beginners expect a 100% color transfer to the screen via digital camera. But the sensory hardware of the digital camera, a CMOS or CCD chip, acts as a

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Stuck on a mussel

It was Charles Darwin who made a detailed study of barnacles in the period from 1846 to 1854, so after his trip around the world on the Beagle, but before the appearance of his ‘Origin of Species' in 1859. By inter alia this study about barnacles, Darwin gained initial reputation within the scientific establishment of the 19th century.

The barnacle is a hardy animal that is found in or very closely to sea water. Although it is frequently confused for a mollusc because of its hard outer shell,

Monday, 19 October 2015

The Phase contrast adjustment

The Phase contrast method

The phase contrast is an illumination method to translate the reflective index or the optical thickness of the sample into a visual black and white contrast.

In the phase contrast the illumination is done through a ring shape slot, which is in correspondence to the ring inside the phase contrast objective. It is necessary a centering telescope for the correct alignment of the two rings, the rings have to be superposed.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Let us find a treasure in the sand

There are many ways one can entertain himself and looking at everything through a microscope is a fun thing to do. It is an interesting exercice to take a sample of beach sand and examine it under the stereoscope. Going grain to grain, scrutinizing them, one not only realizes that sand is unexpectedly beautiful, but finds surprieses hidden within them.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The annual rings of a tree trunk tell us a lot

The wood of deciduous trees contains numerous tracheae with large lumens, present in the annual rings. They are there for the water and fluid transport which is increasing during the growing season, because leaves, having a larger surface area, evaporate considerably more water than for example the needles of conifers. In the microscopic image, the regular arrangement of the early wood with wide lumina and that of the late wood with small lumina is striking.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Glittering crystals in the wood of Larix decidua

Linearly polarized light or planar polarized light, is polarized light that consists of light waves that vibrate only in one direction (or in other words, only in one plane) In nature it is the most common kind of polarized light. Linearly polarized light occurs, for example, by scattering of light in the atmosphere or by reflection of light on a water surface. Linearly polarized light is used in the optics in polarization microscopes.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

It's safe stay under your skull

The type of most bones of the human skull is flat bone. Flat bones are bones whose principle function is either extensive protection or the provision of broad surfaces for muscular attachment. These bones are expanded into broad, flat plates, as in the cranium (skull), the ilium (pelvis), sternum and the rib cage.

In the cranial bones, the layers of compact tissue are familiarly known as the tables of the skull; the outer one is thick and tough; the inner is thin, dense, and brittle,

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

A thread of light in the darkness

In a dim surrounding, these alunite crystals seem to glow by themselves. The photo was taken from the backside of a rock full of them [see the other image] and this precise line of crystals marks the end of that superior part of the rock.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Who eats banana stems?

The banana tree is one of those few species where each part is used in some way or the other, be it the leaves which are used for eating food, the fruit which is eaten in the raw or ripe form, or the flower or stem which is also consumed.

Banana stem can be cooked or consumed raw in juice form. The stem is cooked in various ways in South Indian cuisine and in some parts of West Bengal.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Alexander Fleming’s discovery

Species of Penicillium are recognized by their dense brush-like spore-bearing structures called penicilli (sing.: penicillus). The conidiophores are simple or branched and are terminated by clusters of flask-shaped phialides. The spores (conidia) are produced in dry chains from the tips of the phialides, with the youngest spore at the base of the chain, and are nearly always green. Branching is an important feature for identifying Penicillium species. Penicillium is a large and difficult genus encountered almost everywhere, and usually the most abundant genus of fungi in soils.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Cubes and wannabe cubes

Perfect cubic shapes are characteristic of pyrite, although it can also take octahedral forms. It receives its name due to the sparkles it makes when struck against steel. This photo in particular was taken from the face of a pyrite cube and it is interesting to see the imperfections this mineral can develop.

Rock gloss glossing over its pale colour

Who would have thought that such a waste product would be so interesting? Red gypsum is used in many applications, ranging from natural medicine to soil amendment, and it is normally obtained while refining of titanium oxide from ilmenite sand ores.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Apollo, a lifespan of a few weeks only

The Apollo butterfly (Parnassius apollo) is a butterfly of the family Papilionidae. The wing varies in length between 3.4 and 4.0 cm. The rear wing is mostly rounded. The rear wings usually have two round red spots on the top and several at the bottom side. In addition, both the front and rear wings have dark spots. The caterpillars are about 5 cm long, black with short spiky hair and have

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

A Japanese woodblock print?

Red algae such as Antithamnion plumula are considered primitive algae. The red algae are classified in the division Rhodophyta, which consists of predominantly marine algae that are often found attached to coastal rocks.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Red human blood cells in Darkfield illumination

In bright field illumination red blood cells do not show a strong contrast. Staining is a way to overcome it. Dark field microscopy is another way to increase contrast. It is realized in a normal light microscope equipped with a special so-called dark field condenser, which prevents light passing through the lens, creating a dark field, unless light it is scattered by red blood cells (or anything else) present in the preparation.

The red blood cells in the blood bind oxygen to the red blood pigment

Monday, 29 June 2015

Experiment: What do the cells of my body look like? Observation of cheek cells.

  • Wooden toothpick
  • Slide and cover glass
  • Dropper and water
  • Methylene Blue solution
  • Tissue paper
  • Microscope


Use a new, clean wooden toothpick to gently scrape the inside lining of your cheek.
Do not scratch forcefully.

Using the dropper, place two drops of water on a

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Skeletons from the past and present

With their glassy skeletons of often perfect geometric form and symmetry, radiolarians are among the most beautiful of all protists. They are also an ancient group, going back all the way to the early Cambrian Period. Their abundance in many rocks, their long geologic history, and their diversity through time make them important sources of information on the geologic age and structure of many deposits.

Radiolaria can range anywhere from 30 microns to 2 mm in diameter. Their skeletons tend to have arm-like extensions that resemble spikes, which are used both to

Friday, 19 June 2015

Adjusting the illumination

In order to obtain maximum performance from your microscope’s optics – good, clear and crisp image – it is very important that the sample is illuminated correctly. For this reason, we would like to share with you some recommendations that will help you get the best image that your microscope can give.

Light and filter.
Turn on the microscope, focus your sample and adjust the light intensity (potentiometer) to an optimal level. Then place the daylight filter (blue filter) on the filter holder. This filter is usually included in the standard package of a halogen or tungsten light microscope. This filter corrects the color temperature, so that the yellow light from the tungsten or halogen bulb becomes white. Microscopes with LED illumination sources generally do not need this filter, because the color temperature is already high.

Not using a color balancing filter
Using a color balancing filter

Field diaphragm. (For microscopes with Koehler illumination)
Place the 10X objective on the

Monday, 15 June 2015

A tiny rock flower

Let us place ourselves in the middle of the picture. To our right, a bunch of white transparent polycrystals; to our left, three light-blue colossal cubes enclosing a little white crystal. In the midst of what seems a bulling exercise, one shall bring light and

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Iris germanica, leaf of a monocotyledon plant, cross section

The leaf of the Iris Germanica is unifacial in its upper part, this means that both sides are equal. Its lower part however becomes increasingly bifacial; the opposite sides resemble each other increasingly less. Both sides of the leaf have the same number of stomata, being an indicator for unifacial leaves. A "cap" of sclerenchyma fibers closes in to the phloem vessels at the outside. It protects and gives the leave tensile and tear strength at the same time. Vascular bundles are leaf veins. The Iris germanica can be recognized as a monocot by their parallel veined leaves.

Iris is a genus of 260–300 species of flowering plants with showy flowers. It takes its name from the Greek word for a

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Beauty is Everywhere!

It is often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In Microscopy it can simple be hidden and putting together the correct configuration may uncover beautiful secrets. A small strip of plastic wrap used for food packaging will look just like a regular transparent plastic if you use standard brightfield conditions but…. What happens if you use Polarization?

Polarized light microscopes are designed for the examination of birefringent samples. A material is consider birefringent when

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Wool, too tight for comfort?

Wool has been a precious raw material for people for a long time. Yarns have been spun out of wool fibres for several millenniums. As the range of available fibres was limited in the past, wool used to be a very valuable commodity. Today we are able to select between

Friday, 15 May 2015

The story of a broken heart

Reddish colours and smooth faces claim the attention of any mineralogist. Vanadinites, the crystal incrustations showed in the image, are a rare mineral. They only occur as a product of oxidation of other minerals composed of lead, like galena.

The origin of the one photographed is Morocco, where its arid climate makes the perfect conditions for its synthesis.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Desmids, beauties in microscopy

This photomicrograph shows Micrasterias fimbriata, a type of green alga called a desmid. Micrasterias fimbriata belongs to one of the rare desmids of the Lowlands. This one was recently found in a fen in the north of Belgium. Micrasterias is named from the Greek mikros, "small" plus aster, "star".

Desmids usually inhabit the acidic waters associated with sphagnum (peat) bogs. These particular desmids are flat, plate-like single cells made up of

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Stentor water ballet

Stentor is a genus of protozoan that is found in stagnant freshwater lakes and slow moving streams. In this case they were found in a partly frozen, small lake near Berlin, Germany, by the end of December 2014. The microorganism is named for a Greek hero in the Trojan War, who was renowned for his loud voice, in an analogous way to the sound of a trumpet rising up over the sound of other instruments. The description is fitting the microorganism because the organism is shaped somewhat like a trumpet.

Stentor species that live individual are too small to be noticed. The species that form colonies are so extremely common that they can be

Monday, 20 April 2015


The prostate gland is shaped like a donut, weighs about an ounce and is the size of a chestnut. It consists 30% muscular tissue and 70% glandular tissue.
The prostate gland is just below the bladder, behind the pubic bone and just in front of the rectum. The prostate wraps around the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis.

The prostate helps to control the flow of urine. During sexual activity, the seminal vesicles that are attached to the prostate

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A frozen realm

The agate is maybe the most well known form of chalcedony. It is composed of microcrystallized quartz, which during its crystallization can trap impurities inside it in a way that the optic features of

Monday, 30 March 2015

Distinct differentiation of urine sediments requires Phase Contrast as a method of choice

Besides the identification of urinary passage infections a qualified investigation of urine sediments always has to reveal their renal or post-renal origin. As a consequence, bacteria, cylinder and erythrocytes have to be recognized clearly.

The microscopic examination of urine sediments deals with unstained, native samples; single colorless components can hardly be recognized in transmitted bright field and thus are easily overlooked.

Only an adequate contrast method will ensure the positive detection of cells and other low-contrast structures in urine sediments.

The necessary image quality can easily be achieved by using the optional Phase contrast on a transmitted light microscope. A quick switch between bright field and Phase contrast is possible and facilitate both illumination methods on one instrument.

Colored crystals and cell aggregations are treated with bright field, while Phase contrast allows a detailed identification of morphologic anomalies like dysmorphic erythrocytes and hyaline matrices (cylinder).

Some examples:

Picture 1 and 2

Phase contrast allows the distinct detection of the cylindrical structure. In bright field the Tamm-Horsfall protein is quite transparent and can easily be overlooked. In case cell structures are located within a hyaline matrix, the renal origin of these cells is obvious. The morphology of erythrocytes (eumorphic or dysmorphic) gives evidence to renal or post-renal bleeding.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3 and 4

The abundance of bacteria

Friday, 27 March 2015

Dodder, a spiraling parasite

Dodder (Cuscuta and Grammica), is a twining yellow or orange plant sometimes tinged with purple or red. Occasionally it is almost white. Dodder can be identified by its thin stems appearing leafless, with the leaves reduced to minute scales.

Dodder is classified as a member of the Morning-Glory Family (Convolvulaceae) in older references, and as a member of the Dodder Family (Cuscutaceae) in the more recent publications. Dodder parasitizes various kinds of

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

There is always some sun shining

Above we can see an aciculate aragonite that comes from Toledo. Its particular acicular form is determined by the ordering of its atoms, which tend to grow faster in the radial direction than in the others. This provides us needle-like structures all coming from a crystal nucleus.

Interestingly, its chemical formula is CaCO3, the same one as the calcite. Yet they are considered polymorphic

Monday, 16 March 2015

Antony van Leeuwenhoek was the first to discover…

Eimeria stiedae is a species of Eimeria (protozoal parasites) that causes hepatic coccidiosis in rabbits. It was observed for the first time by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek

Monday, 2 March 2015

Parfocality adjustment for upright microscopes

Parfocalty is a property of the optical components that allows the microscope to stay in focus when changing between lenses of different magnification.

This means that when the objectives of a microscope are changed from higher to lower magnification or vice versa, the sample you are viewing stays in focus.

This is important especially when taking photographs or making videos using a microscope and a camera. If the parfocality is not adjusted, the camera will not be focusing correctly, even if the image seen through the eyepieces is in focus.

To ensure the correct parfocality adjustment of your microscope, just follow these easy steps:

1. Adjust the interpupillary distance so that both the right and left field of view become one.

2. Set the diopter adjustment on both eyepieces (or on eyepieces tubes) on the “0” position.

3. Select the lowest magnification objective and

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Urea, a chemical indispensable for life

Urea is an organic compound with the chemical formula CO(NH2)2. The molecule has two NH2 groups joined by a carbonyl (C=O) functional group. Urea serves an important role in the metabolism of nitrogen-containing compounds by animals and is the main nitrogen-containing substance in the

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Some ideas about Stereo Microscopes

A stereo microscope certainly is the most widespread type of microscope. From industrial QS applications to the biomedical field, from professional environments to amateur usage: no other type of light microscope can claim to have a similar appreciation.

This success is based on its characteristics:
  • Low magnification
  • 3-D image
  • True sided image
  • No sample preparation needed

Especially in educational environments, there is no better instrument to take the first steps into the “world of small things”. Sample preparation for a regular transmitted light microscope is often associated with

Friday, 13 February 2015

Have a look in your thigh bone

The femur, or thigh bone, is the longest, heaviest, and strongest bone in the entire human body. All of the body’s weight is supported by the femurs during many activities, such as running, jumping, walking, and standing. Extreme forces also act upon the femur thanks to the strength of the muscles of the hip and thigh that act on the femur to move the leg. The femur is classified structurally as a long bone and is a major component of the appendicular skeleton.

Bone is living tissue and has a hard, relatively rigid matrix. The matrix contains numerous collagen fibres and is

Monday, 9 February 2015

A universal tool for scientists and hobbyists: Motic’s stereo microscope SMZ171

From industrial applications to the biomedical field, from professional environments to amateur usage: A stereo microscope fits to all application fields. Flexibility in optics and illumination here is the key issue.

Motic’s well-established SMZ171 comes with extended resolution power and multiple illumination options. The standard optical configuration

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Special One

This tiny, black-and-white tropical freshwater fish is a quite popular aquarium fish but what makes it so special is how it can help researchers.

Popularity of zebrafish (Danio rerio), within the medical research community started when scientists realized

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Walking without legs

Amoeba proteus gets its name through two Greek words; Amoeba meaning change and proteus meaning Sea God. The Greek meaning describes this microbe as the Sea God Proteus that has an ever