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Archive for January, 2012

Have we mentioned our line of Lab Furniture lately?

At Spectrum Scientifics, we carry a lot of products for kids, as well as serious equipment for lab workers and scientists. One of the more important lines we carry is our Lab Furniture. This line is built-0n-demand, usually made of chemically resistant PVC or other plastic materials, and are all made in the USA!

Equipment ranges from this rotating lab shelf

To this light duty lab cart

Up to this huge 8′ mobile Lab ‘Island’

These are just examples of desktop and ‘desk’ styles however, this line also includes Bio-Hazard shields to keep the zombie-making liquids* away from you!

* Zombie -making fluids do not actually exist.

Other popular products in this line are the 108 Compartment HPLC cabinet, used to store analytical HPLC columns ( a chromatography item).

This Lab Furniture line truly has ‘something for everyone’ – from simply filling some storage needs to full on lab-top workspace. There is something to take care of your needs!


New Information Intensive Poster – Understanding Earth Science

We’ve added a new entry to our popular information intensive poster series: Understanding Earth Science


This gloriously colorful poster shows the Earth  in several ways, from a view from the International Space Station, to an imaging on global vegitation, or a the sea level. This poster has lots of great imagery and detailed explanations of each image.This poster is a great and informative wall hanger!

The poster measures 24″ Wide x 36″ Tall and is laminated for survival in the toughest classrooms. Printed in the USA.


Oh, little scammers, how you do amuse.

About once a week we get an email that reads like this:

“I will like to order some of your products and I will want it shipped to our place as follows :

<shipping address redacted>
Therefore, i hope to hear from you soon regarding my inquiry and to know where i can view products you have presently in stock and if there is any special pricing i need to know about. Lastly regarding payment i will be sending you my USA Valid credit card to charge for my order to avoid delays but can you let me know the type of credit cards you accept?Can you work hand in hand with my client freight personal agent? so they can Pickup the products directly from your location down to my client address in <redacted>

I hope to hear from you as soon as possible.



Of course, this makes us roll our eyes as yet another lazy scammer is trying to get our attention.

The meat of this is in the middle paragraph of course. Let’;s break it down:

“Therefore, i hope to hear from you soon regarding my inquiry and to know where i can view products you have presently in stock”

This is the part that pretty says “scammer”. Whoever they are they are too lazy to even look at our website. Not once is there any mention of any specific inventory that we carry.

and if there is any special pricing i need to know about.

’cause you know, if you are trying to con someone, you should at least be economical about it and get the best price.

Lastly regarding payment i will be sending you my USA Valid credit card to charge for my order to avoid delays but can you let me know the type of credit cards you accept?

This line, or a line very similar to it appears in almost all of these scammer’s emails (usually the wording is more like “do you please maybe accept CREDIT CARD?!”)  More proof that they have not even given a real glance at our website, or else they’d know what credit cards we take.

Any credit card they give will be fake, or more likely stolen. I used to try and fish these guys to get them to reveal their fake card numbers, but the credit card companies seemed so uninterested in rooting out problems like this and made it hard to do so that I stopped bother, although once I did get a call thanking me for following through.

Can you work hand in hand with my client freight personal agent? so they can Pickup the products directly from your location down to my client address in <redacted>

Ah, yes. Here were get to the meat of the theft. The card is fake, and they want their ‘personal’ freight agent (a local partner to the scammer) to pick up the items.  That way there is no paper trail or tracking when the items ship.  Joy.

These emails are incredibly clunky and sloppy, and yet someone must be falling for them because we keep getting them.

The joys of online retail.


Opportunity on Mars – Still going after 8 years.

On January 24th, 2004 NASA’s Opportunity Rover touched down on Mars with its sister rover, Spirit. Today, eight years later, Opportunity is still going, well beyond expected performance. Spirit died last year after getting mired in the sand in such  a way that it could not use its solar panels to recharge . Both rovers were not expected to last beyond a 90 working period. But they ended up lasting well beyond their operation period and Opportunity still rolls along. With this “opportunity” NASA scientists have been using the rover to search out as much information as they can on the Endevour Crater.

Opportunity has traveled over 21 miles since landing (poor Spirit only covered a little under 5 miles). Detailed trverse maps can be found on NASA’s webpage.







More details on Opporunity


Norman Edmund, Founder of Edmund Scientific, RIP

We have just heard that Norman Edmund, the founder of the famous Edmund Scientific, passed away on January 16th.

Norman Edmund started a company by selling surplus lenses during WW2. When he couldn’t get a lens for his camera he purchased 10 in a bulk surplus order. Since he now had 9 lenses he did not need he placed a small ad and sold them all quickly. He repeated this with another batch of lenses and soon a business was born. At first it was known as the Edmund Salvage Company, but later on as Norman’s interest in science education made its way into the catalog (at first with products built using more surplus lenses) the company became known as Edmund Scientific. It soon had a catalog that was famous in science circles. Norman would run Edmund Scientific until the 70’s when health issues led him to turn over the reigns to his son, Robert Edmund. Soon after, Edmund Scientific split into two divisions – the ‘Scientifics’ division and the Industrial Optics Division. The former was sold to science supply company VWR in 2001, while the latter continues to exist in Barrington, NJ.

Edmund Scientific was a great inspiration to Spectrum Scientifics. Without it this store and website would have never come into being. It is our hope that we follow the legacy of Norman Edmund’s scientific company (a little less so of what VWR made it into). That is our dream. We think we have done a pretty good job, and many folks who remember the Edmund Scientific store in Barrington, NJ remark that our store reminds them of it.

Norman Edmund

For more information. Please visit Edmund Optics press release.


Helping science teachers with supplies

We get a lot of science teachers in the store buying supplies and equipment for their classroom. The sad fact is that they are often spending their own cash – the often heard lament is that they get all of $100 for supplies for the year and either have to jump through hoops to order anything beyond that or have no option but to spend their own salary. We help as much as we can: discounts, etc. But the sad fact is that much of the money is coming out of their own pockets – as much as 10% in some cases!

So what can be done? Sometimes grants can be applied for, but take a lot of effort to follow through, and there is a lot of competition even for small grants.

Other options are donation programs. These include Adopt a Classroom and Donors Choose. Both of these allow contributors to donate to classrooms in need. Teachers in turn can sign up to receive funding for classroom supplies and equipment. As of this writing there appear to be some issues with Donors Choose as being more of a ‘professional’ (i.e. taking a large portion of the donations) charity than it was in the past. These programs can be used for non-science classes as well.

In any case, charity groups like this at least can get money into the hands of teachers seeking funds for their school projects or classroom without the middleman of the school administration or other interests. Consider a donation today!

Fun with a Smart Phone and a Kaleidoscope.

Not much time today, so here is a video we took be shooting through one of our Kaleidoscopes

New Plush Magnet Toys!

Sometimes we just add things that are plain silly fun – if they have a science and nature theme of course. These little guys have both, being both nature (animals and dinosaurs) and magnets! So let’s have a look:

First we have a Penguin

A nifty Stegosaurus

Don't ask why it is giraffe colored.

There’s always a popular Panda!

Everyone loves a magnetic shark

And of course a T-Rex!


Each of these toys has magnets in either the feet or the ‘arms’.  Each is $3.99 so you can pick up a bunch and fill up the fridge door or filing cabinet.

Astronomy Hints #13: Astrophotography Part 3

Continuing from Part 2

OK, so we’ve covered the basics, and we have talked about equipment. So now it is time to actually take your camera and your telescope and start taking some pictures. So how do you set these things up? Well, actually there are several ways. This graphic shows the main ones:

As you can see, there are several ways to couple your camera and your telescope. Let’s discuss them in order:

Prime Focus/Direct Projection The camera in this case is little more than a CCD & shutter system. The camera body is attached to the telescope (most telescopes made these days have threads on the eyepiece holder). This will entail something called a T-Ring adapter. T-Ring adapters are brand specific to the camera and sold by the larger camera supply companies.

In essence, the telescope is now the camera’s lens. Its one of the simplest setups but it has limits – the magnification is usually not very high, for example. This is usually OK on most objects as the digital camera’s resolution and some selective cropping in a photo editing program can give you the image you want. Most specialty telescope camera eyepieces work using this technique as they usually are just dropped into the eyepiece holder.

Afocal Photography: The idea here is a simple one: Whatever I can see through the eyepiece I should be able to photograph. This is pretty much true and one of the 3029simpler setups if you accept certain limitations. Afocal photography has been around for a long time, but with digital cameras allowing for you to see the shot in real time (instead of waiting to get the film to developed) it has had a resurgence in popularity. Now of course a lot of the problem is that holding the camera up to the eyepiece does not really work well on its own – The view will be faint and the camera will need to take a long exposure shot. So holding it in your hand won’t work well unless you are a human statue.  For those of us who are not there are devices that hold the camera in position to take the shot.

Even so, this technique does have limitations – there is often a lot of vignetting (where the view through the telescope does not fill the camera field of view, it doesn’t work so well for long exposure shots (the camera is held by clamping to the eyepiece and thus not incredibly stable), and it is surprisingly tricky for such a simple technique. On the other hand, the clamping devices do not cost very much, so assuming you already have a suitable camera and telescope (see part 2) you can do some astrophotography on the cheap since the only less expensive technique is piggybacking (see part 1). You can even use digital cameras that are not DSLRs!

Projection Photography: Here the camera is once again lensless, but the telescope keeps its eyepiece in place (unlike Prime Focus Photography). This method has some excellent advantages: it has adjustable magnification, for example. But it is perhaps the most persnickety to setup (although opinions will vary). This method usually involves the T-Ring adapters mentioned above as well as some other camera adapters.  However just having the adapters does not set everything up automatically. There is a lot of adjustment that will be needed to make the image the correct size and magnification.

These are the main method of astrophotography – there are of course more methods that are less common but they are out of the scope of this article and of “Astronomy Hints”. Remember that while we have put out some stern comments about the effort required for astrophotography, we also want to point out that it can be lots of fun and very rewarding – just remember what you are getting into first!


Lemon Clock!

Fruit-powered battery educational kits are nothing new, but unfortunately the ones we carried were excessively expensive for what was just a few materials. When the price of making a fruit-powered battery goes above $10 most folks start to wonder if it is worth it. But now we have added a much less expensive Lemon Clock:

May work with other fruits, too!

All you need is this kit, which is under $5, and a lemon! A simple cut of the lemon and inserting of the zinc & copper pieces produces enough electricity to power a simple LCD clock! You can try this kit on other fruits, or see how long a lemon will power the clock in an endurance test!

Plenty of folks have asked us for copper & zinc pieces to make their own fruit battery kits, and now we have not only those items, but a clock to power as well. All of this for an excellent price!