Archives of Ask A Scientist!
About "Ask A Scientist!"
On September 17th, 1998 the Ithaca Journal ran its first "Ask A Scientist!" article in which Professor Neil Ashcroft , who was then the director of CCMR, answered the question "What is Jupiter made of?" Since then, we have received over 1,000 questions from students and adults from all over the world. Select questions are answered weekly and published in the Ithaca Journal and on our web site. "Ask A Scientist!" reaches more than 21,000 Central New York residents through the Ithaca Journal and countless others around the world throught the "Ask a Scientist!" web site.
Across disciplines and across the state, from Nobel Prize winning scientist David Lee to notable science education advocate Bill Nye, researchers and scientists have been called on to respond to these questions. For more than seven years, kids - and a few adults - have been submitting their queries to find out the answer to life's everyday questions.
However, further magnification is sometimes not possible since every microscope has a limit to its ability to magnify and resolve details in an image. Light microscopes are limited to a magnification of about 1000X and a resolution of about 300 nanometers. When higher magnification and greater resolution is required researchers turn to electron microscopes which can magnify hundreds of thousands of times and resolve biological structures at the nanometer scale. Viruses and ribosomes, for example, are only visible under an electron microscope. The superior resolving power of an electron microscope will also produce a clearer image than a light microscope at the same magnification.
Finally, one of the most important steps in imaging cells (or any sample) under a microscope is specimen preparation. Researchers take great care to prepare good specimens. If a sample is not prepared well even an expensive, high quality microscope will have trouble producing a good image. Samples must be very thin to enable light or electrons to pass through them and a stain is often used to improve contrast in the image.
Microscopy is a very exciting field and as instruments and techniques continue to improve whole new worlds are opening up for us to see.
- Why are the small computers of today faster than the big IBM computers of the past?
- How does a copy machine work?
- What is nanotechnology?
- How are submarines able to go down so deep under the water, and then surface?
- Have nanobots already been created? What are nanobots made out of? Are they decomposable or will they just build up? What do they use for a power source?
- Is it possible to determine the resonance frequency of an object that has a diameter in nanometers in size (such as a cell)?
- How does the CCD work in a digital camera?
- With California blackouts and amazingly high heating costs, are alternate energy sources becoming closer to "hitting the market" than ever? If so, what are they and what are their pros and cons?
- What is the highest microscope power on an electron microscope?
- What is fiber optic cable and what advantages does it have over other technologies?