Take an imaging chip out of a digital camera, modify it a bit, and what do you get? A minuscule microscope that doesn’t even need lenses to see into the world of inner space. The revolutionary imaging system, developed by scientists at Caltech, uses a series of fluid-filled tubes to move microscopic cells or creepy-crawlies in front of its eagle-eyed chip, taking a series of hundreds of mini-images. Then they’re combined in software to create a composite picture of the critter at hand.
While microscopes have been getting smaller lately, this one’s even-tinier size, $10 cost and formidable power make it a breakthrough. It’ll let doctors in developing countries carry around a powerful pocket microscope that can detect malaria, for instance. Maybe we’ll see such a scope in the cell phones of tomorrow, notifying us of which disease that coughing dude sitting next to us on the plane might be spewing forth. Could be useful.