What Are Microscopes Used For?

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Microscopes are used for looking at objects that are very close to us, yet are very small in size. Find out how slides are used to look at objects with microscopes in biology with help from a science teacher in this free video on microscopes.

Part of the Video Series: Physics & Electromagnetism
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Steve Jones, and I'm going to explain the uses of microscopes. Now microscopes--everybody has a microscope at some time in their house, and they will start looking at small objects. But, basically to summarize what microscopes are for: it's for looking at objects which are both very small, and very close to us. We can't use a microscope, for example, to look at the sun; for that we use a telescope. The microscope is always within a few centimeters of the things we look at. And in biology often we use a slide. On the slide we put a section of something we're looking at, or we put the object between two slides so that we can look at it in the microscope. The magnification might be between a hundred and two hundred, or even more. But, that's one of the uses of a microscope, and that is probably a very important use. But another very important use is in a physics laboratory because very often we want to measure the length of objects or the distances moved by objects, and we can do this with a special kind of microscope called a traveling microscope, which is the same basic object--a microscope--but mounted on an accurate scale. It's on a slide which moves along the scale, and as it moves along the scale you can read where on the scale it is. Now, if you look through the actual microscope you will be able to see this point. So here I am focused on this point, on the corner of this object. And I can focus on the corner of the object there. And if i run the microscope down, as long as the microscope doesn't move, I will have a very accurate distance between there and there because on here I use what's called a Vernier scale, a very accurate measuring scale. And, therefore I can get a very accurate reading of distance here, which is very often extremely critical when we're trying to measure accurately various quantities. So these are two types of microscope, but they both use the microscope for viewing objects which are small and quite close to us. The only difference being that the traveling microscope is used to actually measure distances between one object and another. So that is basically the uses of microscopes.

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