Popular Science shows us how to make a cheap paper microscope that really works:
In the Foldscope, invented by Stanford University engineers, creased paper creates a scaffold, which holds a lens and an LED in alignment. A microscope slide sits between them. As users peer at the sample, they flex the paper to adjust the lens and change the focus. The simple assembly can magnify objects more than 2,000 times.
Lead developer Manu Prakash originally saw the Foldscope as an inexpensive way to diagnose disease in developing countries. But he soon realized it could also help excite a new generation of scientists. “You learn to appreciate the microscopic cosmos by actually exploring it yourself,” he says.
To arm aspiring scientists with a crowd-sourced manual of experiments, the inventors launched a beta test. More than 11,000 applicants from 130 countries—ranging from six-year-olds to Nobel Laureates—volunteered to fold their own microscopes and use them for an original research project. They plan to study bee parasites, identify “micro-fossils” the size of sand grains, and more.
Here, there’s a video:
And they’ve got a gallery of images up here.