Monday, September 22, 2008

Co-ops and Microscopes

I've been putting off buying a much needed microscope hoping that a good deal might cross my path. I think I've found it finally.

Have you heard of the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. It's really cool. Much like schools pool resources in order to gain discounts on texts, services, and supplies, Homeschool Buyers Co-op pools together homeschoolers from all over the country to increase our purchasing power.

Their current deal on microscopes is a perfect example. If you buy a microscope through the co-op you can get up to a 40% discount. The only criteria is that at least 10 other homeschoolers sign up for the deal. That shouldn't be too hard as the co-op has thousands of members.

Even if you're not in the market for a microscope, check out the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. If you sign up, you'll get a weekly email listing the current deals. I've saved a bundle on curriculum and software thanks to those emails.

If you are in the market for a microscope, here's a webpage to help you discern on the best one for your homeschool: Buyers Guide from Great Scopes. And a brief note from my friend MacBeth Derham:

On the microscope front, remind your readers to check for glass optics. Plastic optics, no matter how inexpensive, are going to give poor results. Also, beware of any scope that offers better than 1000x power. It's physically impossible. While you can get a bigger image, the magnification is empty, providing no more resolution (clarity) than 1000x. The laws of physics matter! Also many of the scopes available today are made in China, unless you are willing to pay big bucks.

I'm not sure if the lenses of the co-op microscopes are glass or plastic. I'm waiting to hear back from the manufacturer.

Addendum: I heard back from Bolden
All of the microscopes have real optical glass lenses and are imported from China.

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Kris said...

I believe 1600x is the best you can get with an oil-immersed optical lens (beyond that you need an electron microscope.) I don't think it is just a digital enlargement of a 1000x image (like cameras can do.) I can't find a reference, though.

These microscopes are a good deal IF enough people buy them to get to the highest discount. I have a list of prices and features that I recently updated at Buying a Compound Microscope

In fact I should blog about the comparison directly. Thanks for posting this.

Maureen said...

Thanks Kris! I ordered my microscope today. They got the minimum order they needed to get the 40% off. The only problem is that we have to wait until October 23 for delivery. The kids are ready for it right now! I look forward to your blog comparison. I love your blog!

Kris said...

I just finished it, and no matter what you bought you got a deal.

We're even 'cause I love your book!!!

Maureen said...

Thanks Kris!

Would you have bought the LED cordless or not?

Kris said...

Here is what I found out about illumination (I will update my original post about microscopes...)

Tungsten, usually 15 or 20 W, is what you get unless it says otherwise. These bulbs run hot, enough to damage microorganisms or be uncomfortable to touch after time.

Fluorescent lighting is cooler and brighter.

Newer LED lighting is cool, bright, long-lasting, and requires less to illuminate it--great for cordless.

Halogen is brightest and hottest and used in professional scopes.

For any microscope find out about the bulb, specifically if it is a standerd bulb you can get most anywhere. Microscopes have a long life so you don't want it rendered obsolete because you can no longer replace the bulb.

As for cordless, I have no experience with them. My fear is that the battery will over time no longer hold a change (like this 3 year laptop's battery) and it would be expensive or impossible to replace. The convenience is very nice, though.