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Category: Science

5 Hobby Microscopes for Beginners

Whether you need a microscope for a class or simply to use for fun, you’ll need to make sure you invest in a model that will suit your needs. Microscopes for beginners can be plastic toys or they can be fully functional tools. Learning more about microscopes can help you choose the right model for your needs and make the most of your investment.

What Type of Microscope is Best for a Beginner?

There are two different types of microscopes to choose from; stereo and compound. The main difference between the two is the amount of magnification offered and the types of things the microscope can examine. Choose a microscope based on the things your child most wants to explore.

Stereo Microscopes: This type of microscope offers lower magnification, usually from 10-40x; it can be used to examine samples of all types. Pretty much anything that is interesting and will fit on the platform can be used. If your child wants to examine coins, feathers, rocks, toys and other items that are not prepared slides, a stereo microscope like the one below is a good choice.  Astereo microscope shows off items at up to 30 times their actual size, making it easy for curious kids to examine and learn.

Compound Microscopes: A compound microscope works with much smaller samples and slides and is what most of us think of when we hear the word “microscope”. Choosing a compound microscope is essential if your child or teen wants to look at slides or very tiny items. Compound microscopes like the one below offer greater magnification and work with pre-made slides or slides you prepare yourself. Most compound microscopes offer magnification up to 1000x, and are ideal for a student taking a class in biology.

Digital Microscopes: Aside from determining the type of microscope you need, you should also consider how the microscope will be used. Do you want to be able to see the results on a screen or save them to a tablet or device? Then a digital microscope like the one below may be best for you.

Stereo vs. Compound Microscopes for Beginners

As long as you get a quality microscope, both types are ideal for kids. The main difference is the amount of magnification and the types of items you can view. Choose the type of microscope based on what your child needs for school or the objects they most want to learn about.

Microscopes for Beginners – Choose a Quality Microscope for Best Results

Some kids microscopes are designed to be toys or novelty items; when you select on to use for science class or exploration, choose one that is designed with that purpose in mind. Toy microscopes may have a similar look but won’t be as user friendly or yield the best results. A few things to keep in mind when you choose a microscope for a beginner:

  • Avoid flimsy, lightweight plastic models; the scope should feel heavy for its size.
  • Any microscope branded with a character or theme is likely a toy and not going to yield good results. 
  • Adjustable dials and settings make it easy to get a good view of a variety of items.
  • A microscope for adults may be a better choice and value than one labeled “for kids”.
  • Look for magnification up to 1000x – any higher and you may not get the clarity you need to fully explore an item or slide.

Choosing a Microscope for a Beginner

Think about what you want to use the microscope for and what level of magnification you need before you go shopping.  Comparing both the actual microscope and any extras and additions it comes with can help you get the best possible value from your purchase. Thinking about both your current needs and how you may use the piece in the future will also help you choose the right microscope for you and your family. 

5 Common Misunderstandings About Physics

Physics, the science that we’re taught from a young age and get reminded of on a daily basis. We think we know some of the broader points of physics, especially because we’re taught equations as early as kindergarten. However, there are some things that we think that we know, but only actually have most or just part of the story. There are plenty of common misunderstandings and misconceptions surrounding physics. Here are five of the most common that we see on a daily basis.

5. Space = No Gravity

When we think of space, we tend to think that there isn’t any gravity. After all, movies and television shows often refer to ‘zero gravity’ when flying through space. However, there has to be some amount of gravity in all places, and that includes outer space. If there weren’t gravity in space, there would be no orbiting anything. Though the gravity is very minimal, it’s still there. Gravity becomes weaker with distance, which is why it’s lower on planets that are farther from the sun.

4. The Sun’s True Color

Though you should never look directly at the sun, the common thought is that the color is that of a pure yellow or orange. However, the sun doesn’t really have one particular true color. In fact, “The entire sun and all of its layers are glowing,” says professor Christopher Baird of West Texas A&M. “The ‘color of the sun’ is the spectrum of colors present in sunlight, which arises from a complex interplay of all parts of the sun.” With that said, the color of the sun appears to be white since it has all colors.

3. Objects in Motion

We’ve all heard that objects in motion stay in motion. After all, this is a law of physics that was founded by Sir Isaac Newton. There’s a little more to it than that, though. Objects that are in motion will stay in motion at the same speed until they are stopped or slowed down by an unbalanced force. Force isn’t actually needed to maintain speed, which may be a misconception because we spend most of our lives on foot or in cars where don’t really see that aspect of motion.

2. Mass vs. Weight

Often in conversation, you’ll hear people say that mass and weight are the exact same thing. It’s even in the name ‘body mass index’ where we find out our general health from using our weight under the name of mass. However, mass and weight don’t have identical meanings. Mass, by definition, is the amount of matter that an object contains. Weight, on the other hand, is the force that it exerts gravitationally. So, yes, when you are dieting you are losing both mass and weight. However, if you were on Pluto you would weigh much less while still having the same mass.

1. Black Holes

You’ve probably seen dozens of black holes in science fiction by this point, but they’re all just educational guesses as to what they actually look like. The truth is, we have no clue what a black hole truly looks like. They could be large enough to just barely eclipse the sun, or they could be millions of times larger. Let’s just say that it’s a good thing that nobody knows what the inside of a black hole looks like, because it’s probably not good.

CRISPR: The Weird Science Of Editing Your Own Genes

Science has evolved faster in the past century than the rest of human history combined. We’re increasing our capacity for improvement at an exponential rate, making the future look incredibly bright while also being mysterious. We’re not sure where science will be in 20 years, but we do have some seeds planted in our brains of what the next big innovation might be. One that has been getting a lot of attention recently is CRISPR, a way of editing human genes.

What is CRISPR?

CRISPR, of course, is an acronym and it stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. Those words alone probably have you feeling ready to tap out because it seems extremely complicated, but it might be more simple than you realize. We’ll let the development of the CRISPR genome, Jennifer Doudna (who by the way won a 2020 Nobel Prize for her work) explain it a little better.

“CRISPR is, in fact, a bacterial immune system,” she said. “It’s an ancient system that evolved in microbes to allow prevention of viral infection…our work with the laboratory revealed that one of the components of this CRISPR immune system is, in fact, a protein that’s called Cas9, that can be programmed to find and cut virus DNA.”

With that said, CRISPR has been used as a diagnostic tool, especially with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. About a decade prior, though, CRISPR started to become more common in another field, and that’s gene editing. At first, CRISPR was used to edit foods before it was introduced to other fields and eventually human use. This includes the treatment of diseases, and gene editing via CRISPR is becoming more common and accessible by the day.

Limitations of CRISPR

There are very few limitations for what CRISPR can do to the human body, and it’s something that you’ll be hearing your doctor talk about when deciding treatments in years to come. “You can just point it at a place in the genome and you can do anything you want at that spot,” said Robert Reed, a professor of biology at Cornell University. Technically, CRISPR causes a gene mutation by cutting like a knife or a pair of scissors, and the precision that’s been achieved has opened up a lot of new doors for advancement.

Ethics Behind It

This raises another question, though, and it has to do with the ethics of mutating genes. While many see it as a way to prevent and treat serious illnesses, there are some that see it from the other side where it’s a way of weeding out certain people socioeconomically. “The concern is that with technologies that are relatively easy to use, like CRISPR, how does the scientific community regulate itself?” Robert Truog of Harvard Medical School said. “If there’s a silver lining to this cloud, I think it is that the scientific community did pull together to be critical of this work, and took the responsibility to seriously use the tools available to them to regulate themselves.”

You’ll be hearing a lot about CRISPR in the coming years between debates, treatments and much more. For now, it’s early, but we’ve seen its uses in fighting diseases such as blindness, diabetes and even cancer and HIV. The future is closer than you think and CRISPR is something that might end up saving your life or a loved one’s very soon.

Yes, You Can Get Sucked Into A Black Hole–Five Facts About This Fascinating Space Phenomenon

Black holes are extremely dense gravitational masses in space that have the ability to consume anything in their wake. Here, we’ll take a look at five facts about black holes that you may not have picked up on from your favorite sci-fi movies.

1. Albert Einstein predicted the existence of black holes long before astronomers observed the phenomenon in space.

The first signs of a black hole were detected in 1964, and the first x-rays from a black hole were discovered in 1971–but Albert Einstein predicted the existence of black holes all the way back in 1916. His general theory of relativity predicted that the collapse of space objects must result in a massive gravitational pull.

2. Our galaxy–the Milky Way–is likely home to around 100 million black holes.

It’s difficult for scientists to see black holes, making them much harder to find than stars and other celestial bodies. This means that astronomers have to estimate the number of black holes in an area. The size of our galaxy leads astronomers to believe that there are an incredibly high number of black holes surrounding our solar system.

3. The closest black hole to Earth is referred to as “The Unicorn” by astronomers.

Located about 1,500 light-years away (a light year is the distance that light can travel over the course of one year–1,500 light-years is over 5 trillion miles), the Unicorn black hole has a very low mass for a black hole, about three times that of our sun. The Unicorn is also located in the Monoceros constellation, which is also known as the unicorn constellation.

4. In 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope captured the first recorded image of a black hole.

Astronomers aren’t able to see black holes the same way they see other objects in space. In 2019, an advanced telescope, known as the Event Horizon telescope, captured the first-ever image of a black hole, helping both scientists and laypeople understand the intricacies of these poorly-understood gravitational forces. The image captured (linked above) showed a black hole named Sagittarius A, located at the center of the Milky Way.

5. Once a particle enters the boundary of a black hole, escape is impossible.

Black holes consist of three layers: the outer event horizon, the inner event horizon, and the singularity (the center of the black hole). Once a particle enters the event horizon, the particle is subject to the black hole’s massive gravitational pull, and is unable to escape. The particle becomes a part of the black hole’s mass, adding to it’s gravitational pull. The more gas and dust a black hole accumulates, the larger it becomes.