09:14 – Of course, I couldn’t help myself. When I started thinking yesterday about doing a lab session on mitosis and meiosis, I just had to dive in and get some of my thoughts recorded. I ended up stubbing out that lab session and shooting some images.
That got me thinking about equipment limitations. I was shooting images of a prepared slide of onion root tip mitosis, with several mitotic phases visible in one 400X field of view. I have a truly excellent Chinese microscope, a National Optical model 161 with ASC objectives, but it’s still a Chinese microscope and it still has achromatic objectives. As I was trying to count chromosomes at 1000X, I found myself wondering just how much difference it would make to be using a Zeiss or Leitz model with plan apochromatic objectives. I suspect that detail that was just on the edge of visibility with my microscope would have been clear and easily discriminated with the Zeiss or Leitz scope. Of course, just one objective lens for one of those scopes can cost $5,000 or more, and a complete tricked-out scope with all the options can easily run $50,000.
I just answered a question this morning over on the Well-Trained Minds forum about National Optical microscopes versus no-name/house-branded Chinese microscopes. As usual, a lot of forum members say they bought XXX model and they’re very happy with it. Which is fine. I’m glad they’re happy with what they have, but the reason they’re happy is that they can see something when they look into the eyepiece. They have no basis for comparison, and few of them would know a good microscope if it bit them. If I could sit them down to do a side-by-side comparison among their $250 microscopes, a $500 National Optical scope, and a $5,000 Leitz scope, the scales would fall from their eyes.
Of course, I also recognize that the difference between $250 and $500 may be a deal breaker for a lot of homeschool families. And the truth is that any homeschooler is much better off with whatever microscope they can afford than with no microscope at all. So I suppose I should just shut up about it.