Science -- Your Future, Scotland's Future
SCI-FUN Roadshow Exhibits -- Microscope
SCI-FUN Roadshow Exhibits -- Microscope
In this exhibit you learn about how we can use microscopes to look at really small things in detail.

Microscopes are made of magnifying lenses. Lots of lenses are stacked on top of each other in a microscope. This allows us to see a lot more detail.

Biologists use microscopes a lot, for many different purposes. Some biologists use microscopes to examine the way living things are. They take detailed pictures of the outside of living things, or of their internal organs and cells. Sometimes they look at those living things at different stages of development, to see how they change. Often they stain them with special dyes, so that particular features are more visible. This helps scientists to work out how those living things work normally.

Sometimes biologists use microscopes to see how a living thing has changed, as a result of a disease or a treatment that the biologist has done. This helps scientists to work out how the disease or treatment affects those living things, so they can work out how to treat disease.

Biologists can also use microscopes as a tool, to carry out manipulations. They might use a microscope to see what they're doing while they inject something into a single cell, or cut a tissue into tiny little slices.

Microscopes are also used in medicine. Sometimes, patients' cells have to be examined under a microscope in order for their illness to be diagnosed. In this case, a researcher has already worked out how the illness affects those cells, and the medical scientists are looking for those changes.

Forensic scientists also use microscopes to examine samples from a crime scene. These might be biological samples, such as blood or hair, but might also be samples of fibre from people's clothing, for example.

If we expand our definition of microscope to mean anything that we use to study small things, we can also call the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) a microscope. Physicists are using the LHC to try to find the tiny little particles that make up the particles that make up the particles that make up atoms.

Microscopes are vital tools in all branches of science, and are used in many more ways than are listed here.

1 Microscopes are made of _________ _________.
2 What do biologists use special dyes for?
3 Why do biologists look at changes in living things as a result of disease?
4 How would you use a microscope to diagnose an illness?
5 What kind of scientists work at crime scenes?
6 Can you think of any more jobs that scientists might use microscopes for?

1 Make a mini-microscope out of a matchbox, clear plastic, Vaseline, sticky tape and water. Cut away most of one of the large faces of the matchbox sleeve, leaving edges all the way round so it can be reassembled. Stick a piece of clear plastic over one of the short open ends of the sleeve. Put a dab of Vaseline onto the outside of the plastic and a drop of water onto the Vaseline. Now slide the matchbox tray back into the sleeve. Put the thing you want to examine onto the upper end of the tray and look at it through the drop of water. Slide the tray up and down to focus.
2 Use a real microscope (perhaps at school or a toy one) or your home-made mini-microscope to examine everday objects. Try catching small insects. Have a look at clothes fibres. Can you see your own cells: try some dead skin, or the end of a hair.