INQ's Magnifier: Revealing Life's Hidden Wonders

Poet T. Roethke wrote, “All finite things reveal infinitude,” a reminder that the smallest wonders can echo the mysteries of the universe, right under our noses. From hidden words on your money to the pollen that makes you sneeze, Inq’s magnifier uses a double-lens system to open your eyes (well, eye) to an unseen world! Wait, two lenses? What kind of magnifier is that? And where do I find those tiny words on the money? It’s all here…

Your magnifier is technically a “loupe” (pronounced loop), which is a specialized kind of magnifier, generally one that has multiple lenses and is used by holding it almost directly up to your eye, and to whatever you want to look at. Loupes are commonly used by jewelers, opticians, and scientists: especially geologists, etymologists, and other researchers who need portable and robust magnification for the field. And because it can be tough to get enough light to see in those tight quarters, it has both regular LED and a special UV light to aid your vision.

Summer Curiosity Box by VSAUCE

Inq’s loupe has a magnification rating of about 40x, so when you look through it, some of the things you can see include:

  • Some individual cells
  • Grains of pollen
  • The ommatidia (miniature receptor) of a fly’s eye
  • Microprinting on money

You may not have a fly’s eye lying around (or maybe you do, we don’t judge!), but you probably have a dollar, Euro, or other piece of paper money nearby: and chances are, it’s literally covered in tiny letters you can only see with a magnifier!  This is called microprinting, and it’s a common way for countries around the world to make their money harder to counterfeit. Try this: take out any denomination of money from most places in the world, and see if you can find the hidden lettering. Here are some examples from a US $5, a रू100 Nepalese rupee, and a kr1000 Icelandic krona. And while you’re at it, flip on the UV light on your magnifier, and you may see parts of the money glow! A lot of currency also has UV-sensitive fibers for additional anti-counterfeiting security. 

Microprinting on a United States $5 bill, viewed through Inq's Magnifier 

Microprinting

Microprinting on a रू100 Nepalese rupee, viewed through Inq's Magnifier 

Microprinting

Microprinting on a kr1000 Icelandic krona, viewed through Inq's Magnifier 

And your magnifier is more than just a simple magnifying glass! A magnifying glass has a single lens; your loupe posseses a compound lens. What that means is that inside your loupe are two plano-convex (flat on one side) lenses facing each other, with a small gap between them. It’s an improvement over a single-lens system because that arrangement essentially turns the loupe into a miniature microscope; where one lens magnifies what the other sees. 

A magnifier helps show wonders that are all around us. Take a look at a rock lying on the ground, or the surface of some fruit, the screen of your phone, the jeans you’re wearing…anything close by. And let your curiosity guide you!