News from DFC Week 220

News from DFC Week 220


I am just giddy. Here in Canada it’s the long weekend that marks the unofficial start of the summer season: gasoline prices jump, garden centers open up (in the midst of frost warnings), the trees now have fresh, Jillverdant green leaves (finally after the long winter), and local produce is starting to appear in our stores. And oh yes, the birds are up early with their pre-dawn songs and my girl dog Jill, acts the part of a rooster and literally crows about a half an hour before dawn. It is impossible to ignore her because she comes to my side of the bed puts her face as close as possible to mine and crows! Imagine this in your face, howling – there’s nothing to do, but get up. Can anyone think of a more effective alarm clock?!

Smartphone Lenses Make Mini-Microscopes Possible
Smartphones are rapidly becoming the tricorders of our modern age. We reported on one of the first indications of this last July, when news broke of low-cost, low-infrastructure stress hormone tests being made smartphone compatible. Now, researchers from the University of Houston have created a lens attachment for the average smartphone, that turns the dang thing into a microscope too! From ScienceDaily’s report:

“The lens is made of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), a polymer with the consistency of honey, dropped precisely on a preheated surface to cure. […] For the study, researchers captured images of a human skin-hair follicle histological slide with both the smartphone-PDMS system and an Olympus IX-70 microscope. At a magnification of 120, the smartphone lens was comparable to the Olympus microscope at a magnification of 100, they said, and software-based digital magnification could enhance it further.”

The news also represents a fascinating development in lens manufacturing technology: it starts as a liquid, allowing for precision; but since it is cured, it doesn’t require a protective housing. It sticks to and augments a smartphone’s camera lens, much like a contact lens does a human eye.

The cost of manufacturing these lenses in bulk? Three measly cents. Contrast that with the $10,000 microscope that the researchers have determined does materially the same thing, and that low cost will put a lot of science into the hands of a lot  of people — including students, and clinicians in isolated areas —which can’t be anything but awesome!