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An Electron Microscope For Your Home?

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the take-two-they're-small dept.

Science 125

CuteSteveJobs writes "Could microscopy be in for a new golden age? Wired previewed the desktop-sized Hitachi TM-1000 Electron Microscope a while back. Light microscopes can magnify up to 400X (1,000X at lower quality) — just enough to see bacteria as shapes — but this one offers 20X to 10,000X, giving some amazing pictures. Unlike traditional electron microscopes, this one plugs into a domestic power socket and specimens don't need any special preparation; it's point-and-shoot, much like your typical digital camera. So easy a grade-schooler could use it, and earlier this year that's what happened: The kids at Iwanuma Elementary School in Miyagi, Japan got their own electron microscope. At $60,000, you'll have to give up on the BMW, but the hope is with economy of scale (so far 1,000 have sold) and miniaturization, the price will continue to drop. The only bad news? It runs XP."

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125 comments

Uses (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29710715)

It could allow an average slashdotter to find their penis.

Re:Uses (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29710725)

Why did you use a gender-neutral pronoun to refer to people with male genitals?

Re:Uses (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29710735)

They probably didn't want to discriminate against transgender slashdot users.

Re:Uses (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29710789)

They probably didn't want to discriminate against transgender slashdot users.

because if you discriminate against them, some idiot will prove his stupidity by calling it "racism" like they do when you say anything bad about a religion.

i mean if they're gonna bitch and moan and whine and scream about racism anyway, you might as well tell a nigger joke. hmm let's see now, which person is more racist, the one who thinks race shouldn't be such a big deal because the differences are superficial anyway and feels free to joke about it, or the one who gets all pissy and spiteful over a few words because he thinks the fact that somebody is a different color is a big deal that needs to be taken seriously and anyone who doesn't feel that way is a heathen who has committed sacrilidge. hmm, gee, i dunno...

so anyway in the spirit of that... what's the difference between a dead nigger in the road and a dead dog in the road? there are skid marks in front of the dog. isn't that a terrible, terrible, tasteless joke that gets your blood boiling? don't you want to pretend that laughing at that will club baby seals to death and will make sure the whales don't get saved? aren't you such a great person because you would never say a thing like that? now go pat yourself on the back, that is your reward for being a faithful member of political correctness.

Re:Uses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29710863)

It's not even gender-neutral -- it's a plural pronoun.

Re:Uses (1)

BKX (5066) | more than 4 years ago | (#29712217)

"They" was used here as a gender-neutral singular pronoun. It's weird but, yes, "they" can be singular.

Re:Uses (1)

gwbennett (988163) | more than 4 years ago | (#29713377)

"their" is not gender-neutral singular. It's plural. "an average slashdotter" is presumably one person.

Forever nullos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711541)

It could allow an average slashdotter to find their penis.

From the summary:
The only bad news? It runs XP.

The submitter hoped that it ran on Unix to find his balls as well.

Wish they had this at my school (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29710731)

I don't know about home users, but this is something a university could justify purchasing several of for an undergraduate lab. Biology could have been even more interesting.

Re:Wish they had this at my school (5, Informative)

deglr6328 (150198) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711345)

FYI Slashdot, one of this decade's genuine breakthroughs in science has been finally breaking the diffraction limit for visible light microscopy. The results in the past couple years alone have been nothing short of stunning. Specifically the techniques which are capable of doing this are confocal microscopy, near-field scanning microscopy, stimulated emission depletion microscopy, stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy and structured illumination microscopy [arstechnica.com]. All of these techniques use visible light and can image at below the diffraction limit of ~250nm resolution, but most use complicated techniques using lasers etc. to do so. Except that last one, structured illumination. This technology is going to literally revolutionize microscopy and probably biology as a whole in the coming years. It is a very clever technique and produces unbefuckingleivably amazing [wikipedia.org] images [wikipedia.org]. With it, full 3D reconstructions of individual living cells with ~10 nanometer resolution, at frame rates in the several Hz range can be taken using a relatively simple LCD retrofit to a high quality transmission light microscope which is installed between the light source and the stage. Look at some of these movies taken [nature.com] of cell processes using the technique and try to keep your jaw off the floor. While the resolution may be higher, none of this is possible with SEM or TEMs due to the necessity of imaging in vacuo.

Re:Wish they had this at my school (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29712059)

Um, in fact, confocal microscopy does not break the diffraction limit. It has several pros against conventional microscopy, but the resolution is ~wavelength/2 as always. I do agree, however, that the rest of the techniques are amazing and can give us optical information with nanometric resolution.

Re:Wish they had this at my school (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29712181)

deglr6328 should have a score of 25 on this article.

Re:Wish they had this at my school (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29712593)

As someone who doesn't otherwise have much of an ear towards what's going on in biology and microscopy, thanks for the links. Unbelievable indeed. I appreciate you taking the time to link it.

Re:Wish they had this at my school (5, Informative)

ccbailey (859060) | more than 4 years ago | (#29712915)

Since I seem to oscillate between looking at TEM images and doing confocal microscopy these days, allow me to chime in here.

Apart from resolution, there are two factors that make EM useful in a way that light microscopy techniques never will be. Namely, that they allow you to look at an entire specimen at once and at the same time see things you weren't looking for. The pretty color images confocal images are made by tagging particular structures in the cell with fluorescent molecules. This is done either with fluorochrome labeled antibodies or by expressing proteins fused to fluorescent proteins. Therefore, you have to know what you're looking for in order to make a picture of it. Furthermore due to the overlap in the emission spectra of the fluorescent tracers, you can generally only look at about 3 things simultaneously. So if you want to see all the structures in a cell at once or you're looking for something, like a virus, but don't know which one or don't have an antibody for it, EM is still the tool of choice.

Re:Wish they had this at my school (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29712965)

you might want to calm down. the technology is indeed amazing, but most of these techniques use fluoroscopy - a technique most schools won't be able to use, nor most teachers be well trained in.

for a teaching university (versus a small-budget research one) to be able to USE such a microscope, the additional costs of learning the equipment and maintaining the scope (don't forget about putting some extra-security around so it doesn't get stolen!) probably outweigh the gain from getting personal images of tiny specimens.

why not just google image "electron microscope images" (http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=electron+microscope+images)?

Not all that bad! (5, Funny)

nomso (591062) | more than 4 years ago | (#29710739)

It could have been worse. It could have run Vista.

Otherwise, an interesting development.

Re:Not all that bad! (3, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29710953)

Yo dawg, we heard you likes viruses, so we put a virus on your microscope, so you can get phished while you observe viruses though your microscope, dawg.

Re:Not all that bad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711279)

If this is connected to the net, and if they allow the users to surf from the machine, and if they can download stuff to it, and if its not running good AV software then they deserve what they get, but there is no reason for this to be connected to the net at all, its a microscope for God's sake. and despite what you may think with your "I'm too good for windows" bullshit attitude. Viruses don't just spontaneously appear on a machine. If it were possible for viruses to spontaneously come into being anywhere, I am sure it would be on your unwashed body. And, yes Vista, on old hardware was bad and still is, but even Vista, the Edsel of operating systems, is just fine on modern hardware, and XP is perfectly stable.

Re:Not all that bad! (1)

simcop2387 (703011) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711409)

actually there could be a somewhat reasonable reason for this thing to be networked, even if its just a local one that has no outside access. So that students can transfer the data via email or some storage the college provides. This would also let the school control access to it so that students would need to apply for it, i can imagine this thing ought to have (in a school setting anyway) some kind of agreement to sign up for that they've been shown how to use it and that if they do something stupid with it then they'll be held responsible.

Re:Not all that bad! (1)

richlv (778496) | more than 4 years ago | (#29712505)

would it have xp downgrade rights then ?
on a more serious note... microscope ? run by windows ? really, hitachi, how could you come up with something like that ?
such suggestion before the product would get quite some funny mods not only on slashdot.

Re:Not all that bad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29713449)

want bad news? most high tech measuring equipment like VNA-s, spectrum analysers, ossilloscopes(the higher priced ones atleast) run on win xp embedded these days. thats mostly a given because you want your white coats to start using the device instead of learning the opsystem

Indeed amazing pictures (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 4 years ago | (#29710749)

Very nice examples in the brochure. I wonder how steep a learning curve this machine has but it seems most is automated anyway.

About it running on XP, cheer up it could have been Vista...

Re:Indeed amazing pictures (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#29710823)

About it running on XP, cheer up it could have been Vista...

The drawback is that once MSFT folks drop their XP support, you will have to be extra careful when microscoping viruses (and very small wooden horses).

Re:Indeed amazing pictures (1)

zebrilo (1652077) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711907)

what if they make it possible to upgrade OS? Or, just like MS provides a choise between browsers, this microscope would better provide choise between OSes

Re:Indeed amazing pictures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711649)

This this does not "run" XP, it has a minimum requirement of Windows XP Home SP2. That laptop pictured does not come with it...

Too bad that article about online journalists not fact checking their sources beforehand was posted after this one...

Using XP is not that bad... (2, Insightful)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 4 years ago | (#29710759)

... as long as you don't have to use some locked-down, proprietary software to read the images. I hope they don't use some closed image format for the output.

On the other hand, I'm sure some guys would like to take the effort putting $YOUR_FAVORITE_OS in it...

Re:Using XP is not that bad... (4, Informative)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#29710841)

The PDF file linked shows that it generates images in BMP, JPEG and TIFF format.

Re:Using XP is not that bad... (2, Funny)

Doppler00 (534739) | more than 4 years ago | (#29712205)

I get pretty upset at work when people save freaking .BMP files onto FLOPPY disks from oscilloscopes. Two formats that should be dead dead dead by now. PNG please!

For Your Home? (2, Interesting)

wjh31 (1372867) | more than 4 years ago | (#29710775)

At 60,000USD, thats not for your home, its just a worktop Electron microscope for labs.

Re:For Your Home? (0)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711045)

But if you do get a SEM instead of a BMW, you'll finally be able to see your penis.

Re:For Your Home? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711263)

You'd have to sputter coat your penis in gold to image it by SEM - perfectly fine for an Austin Powers villain, granted.

Re:For Your Home? (1)

Quantum Swordsman (1461009) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711293)

Ah, but this can image non-conductive samples without special prep, so no gold penis for you...

Re:For Your Home? (1)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711413)

You still have to seal it up in the vacuum chamber. While most would appreciate the swelling that would cause, I'm not sure I want the aftereffects.

Re:For Your Home? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711095)

60,000 American dollars = 62 621.98 Canadian dollars.

With that amount of money I could stop working for about four years. Americans are fucking rich if you ask me.

Re:For Your Home? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711275)

Americans are fucking rich if you ask me.

Canadian's are fucking poor if you ask me...

don't want to upset anyone, especially a Canadian, but i'm australian, and 60k usd would barely cover social security payments for 4 years.

Perhaps things have changed. But as far as I know, you'd get paid more than 60k usd in 4 years of NOT working in Australia.

60k usd doesn't make this product as 'house hold' as a microwave oven, but as others point out the bmw crowd can certainly afford one. Having said that, how much of a geek do you need to be to be able to say 'check out my new microscope' with a straight face.

note: i haven't lived in australia for a long time, or claimed social security for even longer.

note note: the aussie dollar obviously didn't do as well as Canada's during the recent storm. Perhaps that says something ;)

Re:For Your Home? (2, Interesting)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#29712039)

At 60,000USD, thats not for your home, its just a worktop Electron microscope for labs.

I also wonder if that includes the price of sputter coating, critical point dryer and all the other stuff you might want to be able to see biological stuff.

The summary did mention though that economies of scale might bring that down. The article points out that $60k is already a significant drop from the hundreds of thousands other SEMs cost. Size is also an issue, this rig won't take up half a room, making it more "for the home" than others. Then again if you're willing to spend that much on your own microscope, you're more likely to be willing to sacrifice half your garage or have empty rooms in your mansion already.

Probably a bigger market for it would be individual labs who couldn't quite justify buying their own SEM machines before this. My lab doesn't do SEM, but we do have our own fluorescent microscope that is easily $60,000. A good confocal microscope on the other hand is in the hundred thousands range, we use a shared confocal and often have to wait days for it. $60k is doable for many labs, but 100-200K is often an entire grant.

Security implications (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29710899)

I am curious what this would imply as far as security involving micro-controllers goes. Some companies (particularly cable/sat providers would be hit the worst) use technologies like smart cards as a means of access controls. One of the biggest barriers to breaking these is how expensive it is to be able to reverse engineer one of these cards by means of a SEM. This would dramatically undermine that particular barrier.

Re:Security implications (2, Interesting)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 4 years ago | (#29712681)

That's possibly the best example of security through obscurity falling flat on its face I've ever seen.

Cool now you can... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29710929)

Cool now you can kind of see a virus, and get a virus at the same time!

Re:Cool now you can... (-1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711099)

Yo dawg I herd you like viruses so we put Windows on yo microscope so you can get viruses while you watch viruses.

Hey, we have the TM-1000 (4, Informative)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29710933)

It's a lot of fun mostly because of its ease of use. I'm pretty sure a 7-year old would have no problems using it correctly after only an hour or two of training. Another plus is that it can be configured with an EDS device for (relatively speaking) peanuts. And it is just as easy to operate as the TM-1000.

But don't kid yourself: the quality of the images trails far behind the more serious equipment like, for instance, the Zeiss SUPRA series [zeiss.com]. I'm not saying this to be a dick; the difference is striking. With the TM-1000 you really do get what you pay for, and on bad days it seems only marginally better than an optical microscope.

Re:Hey, we have the TM-1000 (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711155)

It's a lot of fun mostly because of its ease of use. I'm pretty sure a 7-year old would have no problems using it correctly after only an hour or two of training

My 7-year-old self would've orgasmed if he knew what having an orgasm meant.

Really, I'm thinking 60k is "payable" if you're really into the stuff.

(Well, at least after the BMW is safely in the garage)

Re:Hey, we have the TM-1000 (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711245)

Really, I'm thinking 60k is "payable" if you're really into the stuff.

I have some knowledge of the microscopy hobby. Also ham radio. Both are similar in that ultra high cost options are available, and similar in that prices don't drop, at least not like prices in the computer/electronics hobby.

It is considered "normal" to buy a $1000 radio or microscope, use it for a few years, sell for about $800, upgrade to the $2000 model, use it a few years, sell for maybe $1800, buy the $3000 model ... repeat for a few decades, next thing you know, "old" people of rather average income are operating $10000 of radio gear, $20000 telescopes, cameras, microscopes, etc.

This is very difficult for computer people to wrap their heads around, since last years video card is merely a paperweight today, etc. And vice versa, good luck convincing a ham radio guy that his five old PC will not sell for even 50% of its new price.

If computer prices were this stable, I'm sure I would easily have a $60K computer system by now.

Re:Hey, we have the TM-1000 (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711495)

I really liked your answer. Mine was an under $100 kid's microscope (went up to x400 but still)

Also worth mentioning are the people that have more than 60k worth of stuff in their car (yo! dog I heard you like...), people who are in the lightweight aircraft hobby, etc, etc

Re:Hey, we have the TM-1000 (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711561)

Not quite true. I don't know in which country you live, but in the USA you have a very lively and healthy market for used laboratory equipment of top quality. Perfectly usable, excellent quality SEM equipment can be had for 1/3rd to 1/4th of the price of new equipment of same quality.

Re:Hey, we have the TM-1000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711565)

Guitars can be the same way.

Re:Hey, we have the TM-1000 (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29712507)

The computer sitting on my desk right now has 8GB of RAM, 4x2.4GHz cores, and 1TB of disk space -- build-out was about $1,600.

In 1995, I picked up a system with a Pentium @ 60MHz with 8MB of RAM for $2,000. Not that much can be added (I think the max RAM for this system was 16MB...maybe 32MB), but RAM was running about $200 for a 4MB stick at the time.

Based upon the RAM alone, I am running a $410,000 computer system in 1995 terms.

Let's look at the CPU...a P120 was about $400 at the time...strictly based upon clock speed...add another $16,000 to the value of my current system.

Hard drive? I have 1TB of storage in this system. In 1997, I paid $400 for an 8.4GB drive. Add another $49,000 on to my current system's value.

I have a half million dollar system on my desk right now...and I didn't have to sell my old system for $450,000 to get it.

Re:Hey, we have the TM-1000 (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29713399)

The computer sitting on my desk right now has ... build-out was about $1,600.

In 1995, I picked up a system ... for $2,000.

I have a half million dollar system on my desk right now...

No, you have a $1600 system on your desk (well, $1600 replacement cost, not resale cost)... doing the same stuff, more or less, as your 13 year old system that cost $2000.

and I didn't have to sell my old system for $450,000 to get it.

You'll have to pay to have the 13 year old one hauled away, and the new one probably would optimistically get maybe $800 used. Probably not $450,000 unless it turns into the next collectible genuine appleII ...

Your example makes my point perfectly... spend $3600 on a computer hobby, and when you cash out to do something somewhat different, you may get, at best, a quarter on each dollar spent. I would hazard a guess that much more typical, for a longer term, harder core hobbyist, would be fractions of a penny on the dollar. That's just how it is in the computer hobby, at least since I got involved in 1981...

But, buy a nice used Collins R-390 shortwave radio receiver for $800, use the heck out of it for a decade, sell for maybe $800 and buy something else. Your choice, buy used fully depreciated and you get to use it for free, or buy new and lose maybe 20% when you sell a decade later. Same game in microscopes, telescopes, pro/semi-pro film cameras, metalworking machines like lathe or mill...

Once computer technology stops evolving or stagnates, it'll be just like buying an old Bridgeport lathe for $500, using it for 20 years, and selling it on for maybe $500, plus or minus inflation.

Re:Hey, we have the TM-1000 (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711545)

If you are really interested in SEM microscopes, why don't you look into 2nd hand devices? At least in the USA, you have a thriving 2nd hand market for laboratory equipment - something we in Finland don't have (here used equipment is discarded, even if it is 100% usable. At best, specialized companies disassemble and resell some of the components. It's a crying shame.).

Most of the used SEM equipment in the USA can be had for 1/4th of the price of new, and this is ture also for stuff such as gas chromatography/masspec equipment, optical microscopes, vacuum chambers w/pumps, fractioning equipment, etc etc... Right now I am looking at a working SEM with EDS (on an auction site you might have heard about...) with vastly better characteristics than the Hitachi TM-1000. And it's cheaper than the TM-1000. I won't link to the auction, but if I had $60K laying around for a SEM, I'd take this beast and use the remaining money to arrange the room where the SEM will live.

Re:Hey, we have the TM-1000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29712381)

You can't really compare a full field emission setup to this kind of instrument. It might be more appropriate to compare it to some of the similar LEO or Hitachi tungsten filament machines. Some of these are small enough to be operated in an average class room, and would actually be about $50000 less on the open market. In fact, I'm surprised some schools haven't done it yet.

There are of course the problems with maintenance. Older machines can be a bit finnicky, but I can't see the maintenance regime being any more or less rigorous than this tabletop model. Replace a filament here, change the pump oil there, clean apertures etc. But that's the problem, isn't it?

Maintenance. Any idiot can operate an SEM. I know, I've taught some of them. So that's your cost. Not the $60000 this thing is going to cost you, it's the $10000 to $15000 you're going to be charged by Hitachi every year to have a service engineer out to do all of the maintenance on the machine.

Re:Hey, we have the TM-1000 (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29713037)

You can't really compare a full field emission setup to this kind of instrument. It might be more appropriate to compare it to some of the similar LEO or Hitachi tungsten filament machines. Some of these are small enough to be operated in an average class room, and would actually be about $50000 less on the open market. In fact, I'm surprised some schools haven't done it yet.

There are of course the problems with maintenance. Older machines can be a bit finnicky, but I can't see the maintenance regime being any more or less rigorous than this tabletop model. Replace a filament here, change the pump oil there, clean apertures etc. But that's the problem, isn't it?

Maintenance. Any idiot can operate an SEM. I know, I've taught some of them. So that's your cost. Not the $60000 this thing is going to cost you, it's the $10000 to $15000 you're going to be charged by Hitachi every year to have a service engineer out to do all of the maintenance on the machine.

In principle, you're right. But the TM-1000 is also extremely easy to maintain. Changing the filament is a breeze. And a new filament is pretty cheap, too, so it's not bad at all, even from a point of view of TCO. Still, if I had $60K, I would rather get some of the used but more powerful setups and spend the rest on spare parts.

we know it doesn't run osx (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29710963)

it would be twice as expensive for the same hardware.

thr real question (2, Funny)

meow27 (1526173) | more than 4 years ago | (#29710985)

> So easy a grade-schooler could use it

The real question is:
Is it easy enough that a caveman can do it?

Re:thr real question (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711063)

Or even harder:
Is it easy enough that an american can use it?

Re:thr real question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711455)

> So easy a grade-schooler could use it

The real question is:
Is it easy enough that a caveman can do it?

Are you smarter than a Japanese 5th grader with an electron microscope?

For that much money (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711087)

You would think it would do colour.

Bah! (1, Funny)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711125)

In my day, we didn't have electron microscopes at school! We had to squint! And we were grateful!

-jcr

Bashing for the sake of Bashing... (3, Informative)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711145)

"...The only bad news? It runs XP."

OK, don't get me wrong, I'm all for a good old fashioned bashing against the almighty iSteve with my Ballmer signature series chair thrower, but c'mon, seriously? Do we have to consider every damn application that runs XP a bad thing?

Seems the "damned" OS has managed to survive in the corporate world years past Vista (we're STILL ordering brand-new systems with XP), and Netbooks have seen their own resurgence of support for the aging yet stable and predictable OS.

I run a Macbook for school. What do I have loaded on Fusion? Yup, you guessed it. XP, for when I MUST run a Windows app. Every student comes marching in every year with a new Vista or OSX-loaded laptop, yet my entire computer lab is still running...yup, right again. Good ol' XP. Old, yet functional.

And rounding out this volley back to the subject at hand, some simple applications (like a microscope) I would rather NOT have to worry about the bullshit bloat of some other OS, especially when you consider your target audience is USED to seeing XP.

Re:Bashing for the sake of Bashing... (1)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711919)

I won't speculate about the intent of the original poster, but I found it somewhat interesting (and maybe even disappointing?) that it required a regular computer OS to function AT ALL?!

If I spent $60K on a single purpose device like this, I'd wonder why it doesn't just have an integrated, dedicated operating system in flash memory or something? It wouldn't negate its ability to show up on a network (if that was needed/wanted), nor its ability to save images or videos in standard file formats.

It seems like a "lazy way out" to design what's basically a "stand alone" piece of equipment so it requires a full-blown personal computer operating system to run the code that makes it work?

Re:Bashing for the sake of Bashing... (1)

Doppler00 (534739) | more than 4 years ago | (#29712221)

This is an electron scanning microscope, not a toaster. Why would you use some proprietary OS on an embedded system? Even a lot of new oscilloscopes are running Windows now and work quite well. Good luck getting all your proprietary commercial scientific libraries to compile on some random dedicated operating system in flash memory.

Re:Bashing for the sake of Bashing... (1)

j.boulton (661381) | more than 4 years ago | (#29713273)

"...The only bad news? It runs XP."

OK, don't get me wrong, I'm all for a good old fashioned bashing against the almighty iSteve with my Ballmer signature series chair thrower, but c'mon, seriously? Do we have to consider every damn application that runs XP a bad thing?

Seems the "damned" OS has managed to survive in the corporate world years past Vista (we're STILL ordering brand-new systems with XP), and Netbooks have seen their own resurgence of support for the aging yet stable and predictable OS.

I run a Macbook for school. What do I have loaded on Fusion? Yup, you guessed it. XP, for when I MUST run a Windows app. Every student comes marching in every year with a new Vista or OSX-loaded laptop, yet my entire computer lab is still running...yup, right again. Good ol' XP. Old, yet functional.

And rounding out this volley back to the subject at hand, some simple applications (like a microscope) I would rather NOT have to worry about the bullshit bloat of some other OS, especially when you consider your target audience is USED to seeing XP.

Ok. I'll bite. I am a Scientific Instrument Engineer. I have worked in government and Universersity labs. When you have an expensive instrument like a NMR or mass spec with a price in excess of $100K then you would expect a long service life. And in fact the more you use and instrument the more valuable it becomes as you gain 'trust' in the instrument capabilities through multiple calibrations. When the instrument is controlled through a OS like XP then you limit the life time of the instrument. Also you have manufactures unwilling to provide support on untested variations of the OS (installing service packs etc). A solution I have seen is to put instruments with ancient ( i have seen win98 and SunOS 4.0 in current use ) on a subnet that is nated and firewalled off from the rest of the network.

Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711157)

But could it run Linux?

Looking forward to fine print from hell (2, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711179)

I can just imagine it... "Sorry sir, there was fine print there, right inside that little dot; perhaps your eyesight is such that you'll need a Hitachi TM-1000 electron microscope. The price has really come down recently."

Use it to read for engravings on stolen jewery? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29712659)

Much of jewlry is custom-engraved by laser. It would be neet to know how to read the engravings, maybe even direct a micro-tool to sand the etching off the jewel.

Of'course, I think jews have been steeling jewelry for years and this technology makes them lightyears ahead of whatever we were buying at the time.

There are a lot of other things to consider (2, Interesting)

elashish14 (1302231) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711183)

There's a lot of considerations that go into making and operating an electron microscope. For one thing, they usually require a pretty high vacuum which always has to be on causing some pretty how power costs.

Plus they also have to be isolated from vibrations in the ground, so even if it's not that sensitive, it still probably would only work if installed in the basement of a suburban house; operating that thing near the top of a multi-story apartment complex probably would cause some sort of calibration errors. The TEMs that I've seen were built on top of some huge concrete blocks (at least 10 feet deep) that were isolated from the surrounding so trucks could pass by without disturbing them.

Don't see why it's worth $60,000 when you can give an entire class of about 100 a regular compound light microscope for everyone to use, as long as it's purely for educational purposes. Nevertheless, it's a pretty cool engineering feat, and I guess someone somewhere could find it practical.

Re:There are a lot of other things to consider (1)

raddan (519638) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711329)

I was fortunate to be able to use a 1st-gen "cheap" scanning tunneling microscope when I was a college freshman (this was in 1997). This thing was really cool. I think it had a resolution of about 0.1 micron. One of the things the designers showed me was a bit of a CD-- you could actually see the "pits" and "lands". They wanted to build these things cheaply enough to get them into high schools. If I recall correctly, their target price was something like $10k.

The purpose in me being there for was to see if I could construct a "tip" for this device on my own. They were using some kind of wire, and were cutting it with a hand tool. One of the designers showed me how to do this, but I was unable to produce a tip sharp enough to be usable.

Anyway-- I'm all for bringing advanced scientific equipment into schools. After all, the same debate happened over early computers in high schools, and while those students weren't doing anything "useful" with the computers, it produced an entire generation of scientists, programmers, and technicians who knew how to use computers.

Info is a little hard to find about the STM I used, but I was able to find this:

INEXPENSIVE SCANNING TUNNELING MICROSCOPES FOR UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION: AN UPDATE. Philip H. Lippel , Christian A. Murphy and John P. Cumings, L3 Consulting, Boston, MA; Jack Lochhead, TERC, Cambridge, MA; Kevin Johnson, Chemistry Department, Pacific University, Forest Grove, OR.

We will present an update on our efforts to introduce Scanning Tunneling Microscopy into introductory college science courses. At a previous symposium (Lippel and Johnson, J. Mater. Educ. 19, 65-75, 1997) we described the design of a low-cost STM and proposed a rationale for introducing students to this instrument early in the undergraduate curriculum. We now present preliminary data concerning STM-based student investigations of materials nanostructure. We will display student-generated images of easily prepared model systems (cleaved semiconductors, polished elemental metals), and also of the surfaces of mass-manufactured objects such as compact discs and diffraction gratings. We will then describe undergraduate investigations of such time dependent phenomenon as electrodeposition and oxidation. Student and faculty comments regarding the relevancy of these observations to the standard curriculum, and their potential for generating enthusiasm regarding materials science, will be discussed.
The growing popularity of scanned probe imaging techniques, especially their burgeoning impact on manufacturing processes, generates a need for improved public understanding of science at nanometer scales. We have generated a plan to create hands-on, museum based demonstrations of scanning tunneling microscopy for general audiences. Our scheme involves three linked components: 1) introducing undergraduates to STM technology in first year laboratories; 2) creating opportunities for interested students to receive additional STM training through undergraduate research experiences; 3) placing selected students, during or following their research experience, in museum internships where they would design and manage STM demonstrations for public groups. We propose that this could be best accomplished through a network of university/museum partnerships that would share knowledge and conduct common training programs. Network sites- both universities and museums- should be selected to insure strong participation by usually underrepresented groups. This work is sponsored by the National Science Foundation SBIR program, Award Number DMI-9630558.

Re:There are a lot of other things to consider (4, Interesting)

Jaime2 (824950) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711401)

I was a TEM operator about twenty years ago. We didn't have any special floor and the vacuum was drawn with an Edwards High Vacuum roughing pump that plugged into the wall and the final vacuum (10E-7 torr) was drawn with the internal diffusion pump. It was a Hitachi 600AB that could do about 100,000X magnification, but we only used it to about 4,000X or so for our purposes. This was a two ton, seven foot tall scope. We didn't use it for high magnification, but for x-ray diffraction crystallography and EDS identification of elemental composition. We also has a Phillips SEM. I'm sure we paid far less than $60,000 for it -- we bought it used. Even the TEM, which we bought brand new, was only about four times as expensive as the TM-1000. However, neither of these scopes could ever be used in most homes due to power requirements and their sheer size.

I think the big deal here is that this one (the TM-1000) fits on a table top, weighs 200 pounds, and doesn't require liquid nitrogen. BTW, the EDS detector available for this unit is pretty lame and is only able to detect elements from sodium up.

Re:There are a lot of other things to consider (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711617)

Don't see why it's worth $60,000 when you can give an entire class of about 100 a regular compound light microscope for everyone to use, as long as it's purely for educational purposes. Nevertheless, it's a pretty cool engineering feat, and I guess someone somewhere could find it practical.

Interesting thought process. Personally, I wouldn't want to have to maintain a class of 100. They wouldn't fit in my basement and probably require daily feedings. And as pointed out elsewhere, the maximum resolution of optical microscopes is a bit less (at least a factor of five). The computer interface for the TM-1000 might be a considerable portion of the value of the microscope. Still doesn't sound that exciting to me either.

As for vibrations, it depends on the magnifying power. This particular microscope only has a magnifying power of 10,000. That means vibration isn't such a problem.

the summary is wrong (4, Informative)

myc (105406) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711205)

On a research grade light microscope, the maximum magnification one can get without loss of resolution is roughly 1500x - 1600x, not 400x as the summary suggests. Also, resolution of the image has nothing to do with magnification; the numerical aperture (N.A.) of the objective lens determines the resolution.

Will it run on Wine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711225)

It probably will, but is anyone willing to buy one, try it out, and get back to us? :-)

"The only bad news? It runs XP." (1)

eugene2k (1213062) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711301)

Yeah, I could really have used those $15 that running Linux would save me..

it doesn't run xp (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711369)

it has a USB 2.0 connector to attach to PC which is recommended to run XP. Probably not a big deal to get it to work with Linux or BSD or Mac OSX

how old? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711349)

Am I the only one that noticed this "news" is year and a half old?

Bit pricy. I'm looking for cheap biohacker labs (1)

physburn (1095481) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711383)

Like the poster said, hope these come done in price. They are so many differicult microorganisms that we only way that humanity is going to get near to cataloging, understanding and using them all, is if many hobbist get labs capable of viewing, growing, gene squencing and describing the life cycles of them. Until every village in the world, has a guy that can identify new life forms, and send them up to a central database, the world is going full of unknown, possibly dangerous lifeforms.

The above microscope would be a great addition to any microbiology lab, anywhere. Now we need a foolproof home DNA sequencer.

---

Microbiology [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

This is 4 1/2 years old now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711387)

If you poke around the web, you'll see that this thing has been selling since April 2005. That's 4 1/2 years. They were celebrating their 1000th unit sold. This is not exactly a revolution.

sample prep? (1, Insightful)

brillow (917507) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711471)

EM is all fine and good, but you cant just stick things into it like you can a light microscope. Sample prep is very complex. Unless these kids have several rather nasty solvents to fix the sample, and a high-pressure liquid CO2 bomb to remove excess liquids, not to mention a sputter-coater, there is nothing you can do with it. Sounds like a waste of money for schools to buy this. Better to buy 200 decent light-scopes and let kids play with it individually than watch the teacher put a prepared sample into a tube and look at a computer screen.

Re:sample prep? (2, Informative)

Moridin42 (219670) | more than 4 years ago | (#29712389)

I know its asking a lot to bother reading the summary, let alone non-/. information on the device.. but no. You don't need nasty solvents and sputter coating with this particular model.

XP development is cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711527)

Win XP is used because this is the cheapest way to develop software:
1. Notebook they used already comes with XP preinstalled
2. XP programmers are 30-40% cheaper than Linux Qt or Cocoa developers
3. XP development can be easily outsourced into low-cost destination

The electron microscope I used to use ran on OS/2 (4, Insightful)

doctor_no (214917) | more than 4 years ago | (#29711633)

The electron microscope I used to use ran on OS/2 Warp. Acquired images had to be transferred off the computer using Zip drives. Its still in service. I have a fluorescence-activated cell sorter (FACS) machines that runs on OS9 exclusively.

The thing is, being that some scientific equipment can easily be six-figures, the computers that are connected to those machines are dedicated to it and run one piece of software exclusively. Many scientist aren't in-depth computer people, most labs with won't allow those computers to have any other software that isn't necessary to be installed, or be used to surf the net, or be upgraded if its working. Any downtime associated with such an expensive machine can be costly, and the software that runs it is usually finicky and filled with bugs (being that the userbase is miniscule).

The fact that its on XP isn't much of an issue, in fact, it seems a lot more progressive then other equipment out there. I know equipment that will on run on Windows 95/98/Me, and let me tell you it's a NIGHTMARE!

fuck wired.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711637)

and any other website that requires javascript just to see images and navigate their website. javascript is a godDamn abomination!!!

It doesn't run XP. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711889)

It probably runs Windows Embedded 2009. Which is the componentized version of Windows XP. Microsoft was forced to keep XP around for their embedded sector because Vista can't be broken up like XP can be, then customized for embedded systems as required.

For example, an XP Embedded (aka Windows Embedded 2k9) install can go as small as ~175MB for a full graphical UI (Explorer) w/IE8, Direct X, etc- all the goodies you'd need on a typical non-localized desktop or workstation (for games, work, whatever). You can lop that down to under 64MB if you cut the UI and make it command-line only (which is sort of deceiving, because the command-line mode just launches into cmd.exe as the shell).

XP Embedded is a very nice, stable system, if you can afford the licensing. The tools are pretty good for building the system. Out of all the Microsoft systems, XP Embedded is by far the cleanest- because you can build the OS with precisely what you need in it (Don't need IE? Don't build an image with it.).

Magnification is for rubes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29711987)

You can take a 400X image and blow it up photographically to 4000X; but who cares? What matters is resolution. Any cheapie science catalog will sell you a microscope that magnifies 200X, but all you see is hugely magnified blur. Can you resolve one micron, or one nanometer? That's what matters.

FEI (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 4 years ago | (#29712157)

FEI has a much better one that can do 24000X max [fei.com]. At 70000 it's a bit more expensive than the Hitachi but then you have soemthing you can really work with. Trust me, 10000X is not nearly enough to see anything interesting :). I saw a demonstration of one of those at a conference once. I wish I had the money to get one of those things for myself.

Re:FEI (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 4 years ago | (#29712189)

That's 70000 euros. Bloody hell /., when are you going to go with the times and use a correct character set?

Re:FEI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29713119)

and it runs on linux... btw, magnification is irrelevant, it's the resolving power that matters.

light microscope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29712355)

Does anyone know of a relatively cheap microscope that is basically just a camera which can dump an image into a computer in real time?

My eyes are getting a little worse and it seems to me that using my monitors makes more sense than looking into our standard microscopes. Also it seems to me this would be a cheaper way to go. I'm just an ammature. If something like this can be had for a reasonable amount I'd probably buy it.

Make one ! (2, Informative)

hebertrich (472331) | more than 4 years ago | (#29713221)

Want one ?
The very serious " The Amateur Scientist " column in Scientific American in the
early 70's had detailed plans on how to make an electron microscope.
A do it yourself project. With a teacher , we had built one of them and it turned out
very interresting images. Just a thought.

The elementary school blog (1)

rabiddeity (941737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29713309)

Here's one of the elementary school's blog entries about the subject, in case any of you were curious.

"The amazing world through an electron microscope [fc2.com]" (Japanese only)

Previously, we asked the children for suggestions on what they wanted to see through the electron microscope. At this morning's assembly, we showed objects that three students wanted to see. The first was a butterfly's scales [on its wings]. The second was a 10 yen coin. The third was a single-celled organism called Foraminifera. The children's eyes sparkle with excitement when they see things that are normally not visible through a regular microscope.

It sounds like these kids are really getting a kick out of this piece of equipment. Iwanuma isn't exactly a poor elementary school, but it's neat that the microscope is small and inexpensive enough that the school can afford it. I worked at a smaller elementary school in northern Miyagi that had a computer lab with videoconferencing equipment, and my guess is that the schools that don't buy an electron microscope will use those cameras to share with other nearby schools that do.

Not fish. Snake. (1)

Dusty101 (765661) | more than 4 years ago | (#29713373)

Now, for just US$60000, the busy Blade Runner about town can look for manufacturer's reference codes on synthetic snake scales from the comfort of his own home! No more standing out in the rain!

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