For Hamish's 4th birthday, I thought she needed a microscope. Actually there was some debate between a microscope or a telescope, but I eventually decided for the immediate future the microscope would be more interesting. We got this usb microscope, though there are many other potential options. Initially I was thinking a real backlit binocular microscope that would be able to view cells and such, but once I stumbled across these I immediately started to see the promise. With this microscope design, the adult can do the bulk of tinkering with focusing and finding an object of interest, and it's displayed in real time on a computer screen that anybody else in the room can watch and be fascinated. It has its own LED lighting, and it's just a small camera that you can move wherever you want, so you can easily press it up against your face, or a leaf on a tree, or whatever other object you want to see in microscopic detail. It has two zoom levels of 50x and 250x, and as you'll see, 250x is pretty cool.

Now I promise when I bought this I fully intended it as a present for Hamish, and I think she does think it's cool and will probably even be more interested in it as time goes on. But I can't help but think this thing is amazing and that most anyone who sees what it can do will want one. I am not yet getting paid to advertise... but I probably should be.

Okay, so what can it do?

Well, you can begin with looking at some pretty seemingly mundane objects, like salt

or you can check out the fabric on the shirt you're wearing:
okay, next, I show you a picture and you guess what it is. Ready?
any guesses?
That is my computer screen. Those are individual pixels, red, green, and blue, in little pairs. super neat.
But you'll quickly turn the camera on yourself and check out your hair and beard (this is my beard):
Maybe you look at a flower (daisy):

But when Hamish considers objects to look at, she quickly wants to turn the microscope on the bugs. And the bugs is where it's at. Check some of this out:
That's a fruit fly I caught. This is the 50x resolution view, and he's also in a plastic bag so I didn't lose him. I could have done better, but here's some higher res:
As I'd hoped, this somewhat quickly turns into bug hunts with the immediate thought when one is caught: let's go look at it under the microscope.
Here is what a springtail looks like (little bitty bugs that show up in our house around the sink upstairs in the summer):
We found a little white fluff bug outside- it just looked like a crawling piece of lint. The lint wasn't all that interesting, but his underside was:
apparently they can bite. From what I can tell this was a lacewing larva.

Bug whose name we have not learned:
I think this was the same bug on the backside:
So Hamish and I named it the M bug.
A tick that we pulled off of Hamish, and saved in the freezer in a plastic bag until the microscope arrived:
50x. Now 250x:
another fun bug. Maybe an owl bug:
I tried to get a good look at his eyes, but it was kinda hard:
So, as you can see, you need one.
But, I guess I should give fair warning, it might give you nightmares if you look at the right thing. So, trigger warning? This isn't a cockroach, just a beetle, but it's still alien and crazy. (It's stuck on its back):