A One Dollar Paper Microscope
I have a new passion for something called “The Frugal Science Movement”. It’s coined by Manu Prakash, a biochemist with his own laboratory at Stanford University. The purpose of Frugal Science is to devise low-cost solutions for complex technologies.
One of Prakash’s first inventions is a microscope, called a Foldscope” made of one sheet of paper and inexpensive lenses. Its total cost . . . less than one dollar! It can magnify 2,000 times, enough to make possible significant health care diagnosis in third world countries whose clinics rarely have the money for expensive microscopes. Clinics in Tanzania and Ghana have used the Foldscope to diagnose schistosomiasis ( schis·to·so·mi·a·sis – a severe endemic disease in much of Africa and parts of Asia and South America that’s caused by any of three trematode worms) and malaria. It’s also a worthwhile tool to get any kid on the planet interested in science. Thousands of children around the globe have made their own Foldscopes to learn science.
Prakash’s interest in Biomimicry – the study of how and why specific organisms work so well – is used to build tools. In an interview with the New Yorker magazine, he said “insects, tiny bugs under the sink, bacteria, day after day, accomplish things that no scientist anywhere in the world knows how to do. There’s a very deep connection between science education and global health. Unless you get people curious about the small-scale world, it’s very hard to change mind-sets about diseases.”
The Foldscope reveals Prakash’s creativity in devising solutions to basic problems. He’s affiliated with Stanford Bio-X, which encourages interdisciplinary research connected to biology and medicine, and with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.
In September 2016, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recognized Prakash’s contributions with one of its renowned “genius grants.”
Happily you can help Prakash by discovering new tiny, little bugs by pre-ordering a Foldscope on the web site, foldscope.com.