No, really.

Recently, an article was posted on Science Daily by Bill Kisliuk (in case you can’t see the pretty blue hyperlinkery, you can click here to see the article) entitled, “Smartphone ‘Microscope’ Can Detect a Single Virus, Nanoparticles”.

Mr. Aydogan Ozcan and his team at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have invented a portable smartphone attachment that, weighing half a pound, “can be used to perform sophisticated field testing to detect viruses and bacteria without the need for bulky and expensive microscopes and lab equipment.” (Kisliuk)

Now, I already think it’s awesome that you can use macro, fish-eye, and other mini-lenses on your iPhone camera to create professional cellphone photos. Yes, professional cellphone photos. Is that an oxymoron?


This blows my mind. To think that some time ago, only the privileged were studying photography, that the first digital camera weighed 8 pounds and took 0.1 megapixel pictures.
Now we can see bacteria with our cellphones.

“This cellphone-based imaging platform could be used for specific and sensitive detection of sub-wavelength objects, including bacteria and viruses and therefore could enable the practice of nanotechnology and biomedical testing in field settings and even in remote and resource-limited environments,” Ozcan said.

I think this is awesome for chemistry because not only can chemists have easy access to an adequate microscope, but if strong and accessible microscopes become available for the common person, anyone can examine the atomic structure of their breakfast or the chemical makeup of their nail polish. Now, just imagine a social network for scientific discovery! Publishing findings would be as easy as an Instagram post!

I imagine that in the future we all will be relinquished of the need to use all but one tech-device. A phone, a quality camera, an ebook reader, all the necessary commodities of a personal computer, and even (with or without attachment) a microscope, carried by the common American and an essential object.
What with Paypal and Google Wallet, perhaps we will even lose contact with paper money. What an idea!

However, that is likely far enough in the future that I’ll be asking my children for help with such a device.
For now, I’ll imagine how the enthusiastic scientist might whip out his or her microscope-iPhone to examine his coffee for hazardous nano particles. I know I’d have way too much fun with a pocket-sized microscope. What would you use it for? What else would you want to see made smartphone-ified?



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