We have been dreaming up new Spring projects for our RainyDayScience section. The team spent a good part of 2009 putting together an awesome collection of astro-imaging gear for some kick-ass Astronomy projects, and we will be doing quite a few of them in 2010. But is now time to think about the next science topic...biology. We've got quite a few suggestions on the table, but the most promising one is what the interns are calling "Backyard Biotech."
BackyardBiotech is about approaching biology with a DIY eye.
Most of us had biology in high school and college, but the advances in genomics and molecular genetics have made that branch of science much more than just looking at amoebas and paramecia or cross-pollinating peas.
We will, of course, do some of that, but we will also
learn how to extract DNA, clone some plants, and maybe even make a few glow-in-the-dark goldfishes.
Our task this year is to assemble the gear needed for a compact, portable, and mobile digital science lab. Fortunately, one of our editors had put in time at Harvard's neuro lab and also did a decent stint at a local biotech back in the day. That experience will be helpful in evaluating the tools needed
to create such a setup to tackle the BackyardBiotech projects.
Hopefully he will also help keep us out of trouble with Homeland Security....at least that's the plan :-)
The first piece of equipment we will need is a digital microscope. We have reviewed a few (DigitalBlue, Brando) in the past. They may be sufficient, but they are a few years old. Readers have told us about a bunch of newer ones. The Celestron handheld, the HiView Wireless, and the Carson zOrb digital microscopes have arrived at the office.
Each has unique features which make them attractive for a mobile lab.
We will take a FirstLook at all three units in the upcoming weeks and decide if any of them would be suitable for our purposes. Over the course of the Spring and Summer, we will proceed to other gear (centrifuges, DNA sequencers, etc...). Hopefully, if everything goes according to plan, our mobile lab will be up and running by the Fall. We invite you all to send us ideas on gear and projects. We hope BackyardBiotech will turn out to be geeky, unconventional, and most of all... fun! [Permalink] -Backyard Biotech
BTW, most self-respecting techies have heard of ThinkGeek. It is the go-to place for whimsical digital gear. What some may not know is that ThinkGeek is also a great source for affordable science gear. Two of the newly-arrived scopes (Celestron, HiView) are from ThinkGeek, and we found ourselves coveting quite a few items when we were looking around the ThinkGeek site. So go check 'em out, we are pretty sure you will as well. Don't say we didn't warn you!!!