Put a Microscope in the Hands of Everyone! Foldscope launches Kickstarter!

Put a Microscope in the Hands of Everyone! Foldscope launches Kickstarter!

Who would you educate with a pocket-sized paper microscope that costs ~ $1? Foldscope launches a Kickstarter campaign to “put a microscope in everyone’s hands.” Want to visit another world full of bizarre and beautiful creatures like you’ve never before imagined? Such a hidden world surrounds you wherever you are – the microscopic world. What? Don’t you have a microscope? Foldscope, a new Kickstarter project, aims to change that. Foldscope is a microscope made out of folded paper, a lens the size of a pinhead, and a piece of plastic to serve as a coverslip over a paper “slide”. With these simple materials, my 8-year-old daughter entered the fascinating microscopic world. Foldscope’s goal is to distribute at least a 1 million paper microscopes around the world to share the mystery and beauty of the hidden world around us. Considering their Kickstarter campaign had 1,000 backers and $40,000 of their $50,000 goal within 2 hours of launch, they are easily positioned to do that. However, they need scientists and educators to help convey the wonder of the microscopic world to the public. As one of the inventors, Manu Prakash told me, “This isn’t just a personal tool, but is about bringing

Small World Initiative – BIG World Impact!

Small World Initiative – BIG World Impact!

The Small World Initiative (SWI) challenges over 8,000 students to solve a “real-life” medical problem – antibiotic resistance – while training for higher-paying STEM jobs. Real research projects like SWI increase STEM diversity by better engaging women and minorities with a reason for their training.  The World Health Organization celebrates Antibiotic Awareness Week November 14-20 to raise awareness about the importance of properly using antibiotics. Since antibiotics were first developed in the 1940’s, they have saved countless lives. However, we have overused and misused antibiotics and are now confronted with the idea of an “antibiotic winter”, where bacterial pathogens have evolved resistance to these life-saving drugs rendering them useless. To make matters worse, the big pharmaceutical companies are not investing in research for new antibiotics because rediscovery rate is high. Antibiotics are simply not as profitable as other drugs. Academia and citizen science can fill this gap in novel antibiotic discovery by doing the initial discovery process, while teaching students valuable microbiology techniques. Once potential products are identified, then academic-private partnerships can be formed to get the antibiotic through testing and hopefully to market. The Small World Initiative is one such academic group sifting through hundreds of thousands of soil

Weird Tiny Life Through the Lens

Weird Tiny Life Through the Lens

There’s nothing weirder or more beautiful than microscopic life. My interview for Weird Animal Question of the Week and some additional images. Since the first time I peered at pond water under the microscope, I’ve been transfixed by this tiny world. It’s beautiful, amazing, and often seems unreal. The patterns, structures, and neat lifestyles of microscopic critters are simply mind-blowing. Nowadays I most frequently think of bacteria, but there’s sooo many other interesting microscopic things as well – from viruses and fungi to microscopic insects, mites, and relatives of crabs, to  single-celled algae and protists. I was thrilled beyond belief when Liz Langley, a science writer for National Geographic’s Weird Animal Question of the Week, asked me about interesting microscopic life. It was so much fun talking to Liz and thinking of some of the rest of the microscopic world I wanted to put up some other beautiful and interesting microscopic critter links if anyone is interested. Ernst Hackel’s drawings are simply phenomenal: Art Forms in Nature (also with CD of images, or a coloring book version; art blog post)     Jabez Hogg’s The Microscope also has some pretty amazing drawings of microscopic life in it. Some of the plates are isolated nicely

“Gut Check:The Microbiome Game” Available at MOBIO!

“Gut Check:The Microbiome Game” Available at MOBIO!

  Professionally printed version of Gut Check:The Microbiome Game available for a limited time from MOBIO. See below for a chance to win a free copy! Fecal transplant? Plasmids? Nosocomial Infections? Microbiome? Whether you’re teaching microbiology or just interested in a fun, biologically correct game for family game night, Gut Check is your game. Available for a year or so as a PDF printable, Gut Check has been revised and as is available for purchase through MOBIO for a limited time. Gut Check: The Microbiome Game Overview For the uninitiated  uncolonized, Gut Check is a board game about the microbes living in your gut and how different life events affect the microbes and your health. I reviewed the game in 2015, so check that post for details. In summary, players start with a positive gut score and attempt to build their beneficial microbiome and reap its benefits while avoiding antibiotics and pathogens. Events in the game include everything from bus trips and going to work sick to eating veggie-filled pizza and synthesizing vitamins. Antibiotics and antibiotic resistance are recurring issues throughout the game. After antibiotic use, lateral gene transfer allows antibiotic resistance and nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections to spread. The remedy? Playing

FDA Bans Antiseptics: One Small Step for Bacteria and Humankind

FDA Bans Antiseptics: One Small Step for Bacteria and Humankind

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned 19 antiseptic chemicals from over-the-counter soaps, hand and body washes. Citing concerns over long-term human safety and increased selection for antibiotic resistance, the FDA banned antiseptic chemicals on September 2, 2016. Antimicrobial washes also didn’t perform better than standard soap and water [1, 2]. Despite these findings and concerns, toothpaste, “First aid antiseptics”, antiseptic wipes, health care antiseptics, consumer antiseptic rubs, or antiseptics used by food industry CAN continue to use these 19 antiseptic chemicals [3-5]. Triclosan and triclocarban found in products including mouthwash, toothpaste, soaps, shoes, and toys, are two well-known antibiotics now banned from use in washes.