Alan Wood’s microscopical diary – 2022

April 2022

This year is getting expensive. I had to replace my computer monitor in January, and now my 9-year old Dell XPS-8500 has died. The power light goes on and the fan starts, but the hard disk does not start, there are no beeps, no lights on the keyboard and only the BenQ logo appears on the monitor. And it would not boot from a USB drive. I think the BIOS or something else on the motherboard has failed, but the computer is too old to try to get it repaired. I was horrified at the price of a new Dell with a similar specification, so I chose an HP ProDesk 400 G7 with 16 GB RAM, 500 GB SSD (Windows and programs) and 1 TB hard disk (data). I can’t believe how quickly it starts, it is ready to sign in before I have folded the monitor dust cover. I had copies of most things on my laptop, so I was able to copy them to the new hard disk. I bought a cheap external hard disk enclosure and used it to transfer some other files from the Dell’s hard disk, which fortunately was still working, so I don’t think I have lost anything. I am now using an external hard disk for daily backups of my data and setup files.

Dealing with the computer problems took a long time, so I was not able to prepare anything new for the workshop on contrast enhancement. I took the phase condenser and 4 phase objectives from my Olympus BHT microscope and mounted them on the Club’s Olympus BHC microscope so that I could demonstrate negative and positive phase contrast.

Olympus phase objectives

Olympus 10× PLL, PL, NM and NH phase contrast objectives

Olympus phase rings

Phase rings in Olympus 10× objectives

PLL and NH phase contrast

Negative high (NH) and Positive low low (PLL) phase contrast

I also showed two ways to obtain dark-ground illumination for stereomicroscopes and macro photography that do not use optics.

One method uses an inverted LED ring-light with the aperture filled with black card. The other method uses an LED stage plate with a disk of black card obscuring most of it, leaving just a bright ring.

In both cases, the slide or specimen is placed on a piece of black foam board (with a central hole to let light through) resting on an inverted pudding basin from which the base has been cut out.

Construction of dark-ground illuminator

Dark-ground illuminator, showing (left) black disc, (centre) inverted bowl with base removed, and (right) the complete illuminator

Construction of dark-ground illuminator

Dark-ground illuminator using an LED stage plate

Dandelion seed using dark-ground illumination

Seed of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Larva of a mosquito (Culex pipiens L.); slide by T. Gerrard & Co.

Larva of a mosquito (Culex pipiens L.) on a slide by T. Gerrard & Co.

It was good to meet up with old friends at the Reading Convention. It felt strange to be there without a camera, because Peter Wyn-Jones (the new webmaster) was there taking photos for his report, but it gave me more time to talk to people and browse all the items for sale. I didn’t manage to prepare an exhibit, but I took a few items to sell and I came home with a wooden slide box and more money than I started.

March 2022

On 16th March, dust from the Sahara Desert was blown over southern England and it rained so that the dust was washed out of the air and deposited everywhere. The deposits had dried by the next day so I collected some from the top of one of our recycling bins. Now I have to try to find time to at it under one of my microscopes.

Scanned Olympus catalogues and brochures

I have finally managed to catch up with scanning documents for the Olympus microscope documentation section of my website. Some of these came from Mike Samworth at Penkridge in September, where he was disposing of items from the library of the Postal Microscopical Society. Others came from Hampshire Micro and were donated by Dave Routledge.

Scanned Olympus catalogues and brochures

Olympus catalogues and brochures

For the gossip following the AGM (where Peter Wyn-Jones took over as webmaster), I prepared some notes on phase telescopes, with photographs of the phase ring in the back of an objective and the phase annulus in the condenser, before and after alignment with the screws on my Olympus BH2-PC condenser.

Aligning phase annulus with phase ring

Left: Before alignment     Right: After alignment

I had to take the photographs through the phase telescope, so it was not possible to use a photo eyepiece; I used my Canon EOS 5D Mark II with an old Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 standard lens, supported on a copy stand.

Afocal arrangement for photographing phase rings

I first needed a phase telescope when I bought my Olympus CK2 inverted microscope on eBay in 2010, and the seller very kindly gave me a Watson one. I soon decided that I wanted phase contrast on my BH-2 as well, so I bought a BH2-PC condenser and started collecting objectives. I wanted to have a phase telescope for the BH-2, and real Olympus ones were expensive, so I bought another Watson because it was cheap. As time passed, I found an Olympus CT-4 and then a CT-5 at reasonable prices, so I will probably sell the Watson ones. I don’t understand why the Watson ones are so big.

Olympus CT-4, Watson and Olympus CT-5 phase telescopes

Olympus CT-4, Watson and Olympus CT-5 phase telescopes

February 2022

For the 9 years that I have been webmaster and writing meeting reports for the website, I have never had a good way of photographing slides at meetings. Several Quekett members use an afocal arrangement with a Leitz Periplan 10× eyepiece that has a 28mm thread (originally for a rubber eyecup) that makes it easy to attach to the filter thread of a camera lens, and I found one at Microscopium a few years ago. Last month I finally ordered a step-down ring from a Chinese seller on eBay so that I could start experimenting, and I showed the results on my laptop at the Home Counties Meeting at Brookwood.

Alan Wood’s exhibit

Alan Wood’s exhibit

Afocal coupling of EOS digital SLR, Zuiko 50mm standard lens and Periplan 10× eyepiece

Afocal coupling of EOS digital SLR, Zuiko 50mm standard lens and Periplan 10× eyepiece

OM-EOS adapter, Zuiko 50mm lens, 49–28mm step-down ring, Periplan 10× eyepiece

OM-EOS adapter, Zuiko 50mm lens, 49–28mm step-down ring, Periplan 10× eyepiece

I prepared a PowerPoint presentation to show images of a stage micrometer and a section of a swan mussel that I used to compare an afocal arrangement using a Periplan 519750 with a conventional setup using an NFK 2.5× photo eyepiece:

Click the arrows to move through the slides. Click the symbol at bottom right for a larger version.

January 2022

Another month with no time for microscopy. I am still working on the revision of ISO 1750 Pesticides and other agrochemicals – Common names, not helped by an unscheduled trip to Thailand to sort out some problems. I did manage to almost finish work on the IUPAC systematic names, and to update hundreds of SVG images of structural formulae to indicate that they are racemates. I was looking forward to the “My latest microscopical acquisition” gossip meeting, but we were in Thailand where the Zoom meeting started at 1:00 a.m., too late for me. However, I hope to find time to watch the recording on the Quekett website. I hope to have some time for microscopy in February.

When I started working on the Quekett website back in 2012 I realised that I would be editing lots of photographs, so I treated myself to a 24″ Dell U2410 Ultrasharp with a 1920×1200 IPS screen that came colour calibrated from the factory. I prefer the 1200 height to the more common 1080. It has worked perfectly until this month when the screen went black as usual during the Windows Update but stayed that way. I tried the Dell monitor with another computer and it did not show an image, so I decided it was time for a new monitor. I looked at the Dell Ultrasharp range, but the 24″ models no longer come calibrated. Google found the SW240 from BenQ, a brand I had not previously considered, with an 1920×1200 IPS screen and a calibration certificate, and I bought one. The display is just as good as the Dell, and it runs so cool that I can cover it as soon as I turn it off; the Dell took a long time to cool down.

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Alan Wood’s microscopical diary

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