Mike-roscopy

Element14 recently held a competition for the best picture taken with the Raspberry Pi camera board. As it happens, we’d already featured the picture that won on Facebook and Google+: Dave Akerman, up to his usual very-high-jinks with more spacefaring balloons, managed to capture a pretty astonishing picture of Devon and Cornwall from the stratosphere. Today’s post is not about Dave’s picture, but here it is again for the historical record.

Click the picture to visit Dave’s blog post, explaining how a polystyrene raspberry ended up hovering in space over Devon.

The same picture, superimposed on Google Earth.

But enough about Dave; there’s lots about his flights here, and if you want to learn more you can go and have a look at his website, or check out our previous posts about his extraterrestrial Pis.

Element14′s competition could only have one winner. Which hurts my very soul, because we thought Mike Cook’s microscopy project was incredibly exciting. Emma, our office manager, who holds a PhD in entomology, has been all a-quiver with thrills about some of Mike’s pictures; I had never seen the stuff that’s just behind the mouth of a blowfly before, but thanks to Mike I shall be having nightmares for decades to come. (Thanks also to Emma for the nightmares; my conversations with her about brain-altering parasites, prompted by this and by The Last of Us have been both fascinating and…lingering.)

Watch this video before you go any further.

I asked Mike to tell me a bit more about his setup. He says:

The Lensman was an instrument produced by Science of Cambridge. I saw it years ago on Tomorrow’s World, about the same time as the launch of the original BBC Micro. I could not afford it then. About four years ago I wondered if eBay had one and I picked it up for about £30. It was an all green one which apparently was a special edition made for the Natural History Museum. Anyway when the Pi Camera arrived I built a mount for my telescope but what with there not being many planets in a good viewing position and it being mid summer I decided to try an make a mount for the Lensman Microscope instead. I used my home made milling machine to mill out two pieces of Lexan.

Mike’s home-made CNC milling machine. He’s that sort of guy.

Then I had to move a capacitor on the camera so I could get the bolt head in the board. Then I moved the LED to the back so it did not shine in the eye piece.

The Lensman gives 80X or 120X magnification, as well as several diffrent methods of illumination. I mainly used what is called dark field illumination for the shots I used.
The movie uses a pan effect to put a bit of movement into the stills.

Some of what you’re seeing is a couple of creatures Mike found in a pond near Wordsworth’s house in Grasmere (he named them Frank and Herbert). Other images you’re seeing are from the birdseed from his shed: Mike tells me that he thought what he was looking at was just dust, and he nearly jumped out of his skin on seeing it at 1080p on a 24-inch screen.

If you’re finding Mike’s name strangely familiar, it’s because he’s one of my childhood heros, and the author of Body Building with Mike Cook from Micro User Magazine back in the 80s. Of more relevance to people working with Pis today, he’s also co-author of Raspberry Pi for Dummies – you can read our review of the book, which we think is rather excellent, here.

If you’re at the London Maker Faire in Elephant and Castle this weekend, we’ll be there (Rob Bishop and Rachel, who you’ll read more about later this week will, at any rate); Mike will also be in attendance, so please go and say hi to him for me.