Manu Prakash on microscopy for everyone

The O’Reilly Hardware Podcast: Building tools for a curiosity-driven community.

By Jon Bruner and David Cranor
May 18, 2016
Gleichen's microscope. Gleichen's microscope. (source: Wellcome on Wikimedia Commons)

Manu Prakash, a bioengineering professor at Stanford University, talks about radically inexpensive microscopes and the democratization of discovery in this episode of the Hardware Podcast. Prakash’s Foldscope is a “completely functional, foldable, origami microscope.” He says that “every kid in the world should carry a microscope in their pocket,” and so far, more than 50,000 Foldscopes (the parts of which cost only $1) have been shipped to more than 130 countries.

You’ll hear the “audio demo” of Foldscape that Prakash gave us, explaining the instrument’s paper, circuit board, and lens, plus the philosophy behind his mission to promote curiosity-driven observation and “make microscopy a dinner conversation.”

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This week’s click spirals:

Foldscope parts
Figure 1. The Foldscope arrives as a single perforated sheet, a few tiny optical components, a light, a sheet of adhesive slides, and an instruction pamphlet. Photo courtesy of Jon Bruner.
Foldscope assembled
Figure 2. After about 10 minutes of assembly, a remarkably powerful microscope is ready. Photo courtesy of Jon Bruner.
eucalyptus leaf through the Foldscope
Figure 3. A eucalyptus leaf from Jon’s garden, as photographed through the Foldscope. Photo courtesy of Jon Bruner.

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