Back when I was single, I used to hit the bar scene a bit. One the rare occasions I would actually talk to a woman, a D-bag who we’ll call Joel (because that’s his name) would come over and ruin it for me. He’d say hi, fold a napkin into a flower and give it to her, which gave him a huge advantage over a nervous mess like me. Why do I bring this up? Because some brilliant people invented a paper microscope that you fold up like oragami. If I had one back then, I could have one-upped that napkin flower and demonstrated that Joel had hepatitis all at once. I still would have gone home alone, but at least he would have, too.
According to Manu Prakash, there are applications for paper microscopes other than outing jerks as STD carriers for revenge. Microscopes are essential tools for fighting disease, but they’re fragile and expensive. That keeps them out of third world countries where they’re most needed. That’s why Prakash and his team developed a paper microscope that costs around 50 cents to print. It’s surprisingly durable, too.
This paper microscope, or Foldscope as they’ve named it, is amazing. It’s printed as a color-coded piece of cardboard. The parts are cut out, and folded according to color. Images on the legal-sized cardboard sheet show you how to assemble it, so no written instructions are needed. After that, you just add in the lens and the LED that come with it. It only takes a few minutes to build a projector microscope that lasts up to 50 hours on a single watch battery.
This could be a huge breakthrough in diagnosing and treating malaria. Even those who are diagnosed don’t get effective treatment if the correct strain isn’t identified. The Foldscope makes that easier for doctors without access to fully stocked laboratories. Now you can bring a microscope anywhere that you can bring a single sheet of cardboard.