Webcam as a microscope – opening the door to the art of bacteria

On 18th April, the world of microscopic life is open to anyone. Bring your own samples from the nearest puddle or from the surface of your teeth, and identify the wild, small creatures with the microbiologists of the university.

Video footage filmed using a USB microscope.

– When the colour of a painting is created using bacteria, the painting can change colour, live or die, says Erich Berger, coordinator of the Finnish Bioart Society.

Bioart that uses living matter in works of art hovers between art and natural sciences. Creating works of bioart doesn’t require any training in the natural sciences. On Wednesday 18 April at the HENVI Science Days workshop, bioartists will let the public in on the technology and show how you can turn a webcam into a USB microscope.

– Building a microscope is technology, not art, but you can use the microscope to make bioart.

The technology is surprisingly simple. You disassemble a regular webcam, turn the lens over and reassemble the camera. The sample to be looked at is placed on a glass plate spiced up with leds. The glass plate works as the microscope slide. A magnification of 150–200 times the size of the original can be achieved.

– It shows everything that a laboratory microscope does. Anyone can see the world of microscopic life, says Janna Pietikäinen, university lecturer in environmental studies.

The afternoon of the workshop (from 2 pm to 5 pm) will be spent at the Think Corner of the university, with the participants and their microscopes available to anyone who wants to bring samples to be identified by microbiologists and plankton specialists.

– You can bring any sample that you wish: from your aquarium, the Baltic Sea, a flowerpot or from the surface of your teeth, Pietikäinen says.

HENVI Science Days 2012 »»

"Do it yourself laptop microscope" workshop »»

Finnish Bioart Society »»

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Text: Antti Kivimäki
University of Helsinki, digital communications

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