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Holiday Gift Idea (digital microscope)

"Scientific American" (the magazine) just released
a list of, "Top SciTech Gifts for 2002" for the
science enthusiast:
One I think might be a good idea for many on this

It's a digital microscope that connects to a
Windows PC via USB, 220x, $79.

That's pretty affordable, IMHO, for what it is.
(Somebody let me know if you find a better value
out there.)  Imagine digital images you can quickly
email to your friends down to the sub-cell structure
for your new cultivation of algae!  Diagnosis would
be *much* easier.  ;-)

I work with big digital microscopes, $20K-$240K,
and they are a *lot* of fun.  Once you start to
realize pretty much *anything* is interesting 
when you zoom in that far, you can keep yourself
busy forever.  But, I'm easily amused.

Hard-core plant taxonomists could really use
something like this, as "pubescent" is often
significant in species determination (the plant has
very very very tiny "hairs", or not).

Specifically for aquariums, I've always been 
interested in the "sealed systems" stuff and 
am curious as to what's *really* growing in the
substrate, the little worm things you might see
(even if you've already identified them), what
the ick parasite really looks like, etc.  I'm
not certain if sub-cell-structure views of leaf
samples would provide any pre-indication of a crypt
meltdown, but I suppose it's possible.  Often, I'm
after a quick determination if it's a homogenous
population (all the same stuff) or if there is a
combination of several types of algae or several
types of bacteria, because those interactions are
sometimes significant (but terribly complicated to
quantify).  If anyone is interested, we can chat on
some of the approaches taken by pharmaceutical
companies for drug discovery... lots of them are
*very good* at growing big vats of bacterial goo.

Oh yeah... lots of aquarists are very good at that
too. ;-)

If you want to give this thing to your kid, that's
a good idea.  Just make sure you set their bedtime
early enough so you get to play with it every night.

Finally, if anyone gets one, I'd love to see some
web pages or articles showing up specific to 
aquariums like the awesome stuff out of the Bigelow
Laboratory for Oceanic Sciences does for ocean
ecology.  It's pretty easy to put together some case
study and synthesis review of issues in your tanks
like one example Bigelow did with agae blooms:
In a recent thread on the APD about the TANK TAKEOVER
impressed with a couple people's tanks, and would
have loved to see cellular views of what algaes were
present in that morass of biomass (big competition
issues there, I think).

charleyb123 at yahoo_com

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