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The Microscope - Volume 68, First Quarter 2020

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The Microscope, Volume 68, First Quarter 2020


On the cover
A curved, wispy rosette crystal resulting from a microcrystal test for the drug alprazolam, using a reagent of gold chloride with concentrated hydrochloric acid. See New Microcrystal Tests for Controlled Drugs, Diverted Pharmaceuticals, and Bath Salts (Synthetic Cathinones), page 17. (Photomicrograph courtesy of McCrone Research Institute)

Editorial | COVID-19 and The Microscope Journal

Gary J. Laughlin
The Microscope 68 (1), p ii, 2020
Excerpt: As you are aware, the COVID-19 pandemic and its socioeconomic impact have caused disruptions in many business operations, especially those of not-for-profits, independent research and higher-learning institutions, and publishers like McCrone Research Institute. Many people, including the staff of Microscope Publications, have been working remotely under government stay-at-home orders. This situation has drastically affected the publishing workflow of The Microscope journal, and distribution of Vol. 68, No. 1 (2020) has been severely delayed. We apologize for this disruption but are pleased to present this issue to you as an online edition.

Thermally Modified Calcium Oxalate Phytoliths as Markers for Biomass Fire Sources

Russ Crutcher and Heidie Crutcher
The Microscope 68 (1), pp 3 – 16, 2020
Abstract: Calcium oxalate phytoliths are present in more than 217 different families of plants. They concentrate in the bark and leaves, which are also the parts of plants that are consumed in wildfires and contain the highest ash content. Phytoliths have a variety of shapes, forms, or crystal habits based on the plant part where they occur and the genetics of the plant. The shape of the phytoliths are retained even after exposure to high temperature that changes their chemical composition and alters the optical properties of the phytolith.
Thermally modified calcium oxalate phytoliths indicate the types of plants (and plant parts) that have burned, as well as the type of temperature transition and intensity of the combustion, making the presence or absence of thermally modified phytoliths useful for identifying debris from the smoke of specific wildfires and combustion sources. Below are some examples of combustion sources:

• Bark and leaves, because of their high ash production, are not used in wood-burning stoves, pellet stoves, and fireplaces. However, bark and leaves contain phytoliths and are the major fuels for wildfires.
• Logs with their bark not removed and burned in a fireplace, for example, release phytoliths from the bark of that one species. The species burned will vary by geographic region but never includes the variety of species burned in a wildfire.
• Domestic open burning of bark and leaves tends to be a relatively low-temperature fire, and the phytoliths show low-temperature transitions.
• Prescribed fires are designed to burn primarily the understory of a forest. Wildfires tend to be intense and involve all of the plants and plant parts typical of that biome.

New Microcrystal Tests for Controlled Drugs, Diverted Pharmaceuticals, and Bath Salts (Synthetic Cathinones)

Sebastian B. Sparenga, Gary J. Laughlin, Meggan B. King, and Dean Golemis
The Microscope 68 (1), pp 17 – 32, 2020
Abstract: Beginning with this issue, The Microscope is publishing selected monographs from McCrone Research Institute’s recently completed research, New Microcrystal Tests for Controlled Drugs, Diverted Pharmaceuticals, and Bath Salts (Synthetic Cathinones), which contains newly developed microcrystal tests and reagents with 9 additional drugs: alprazolam, butylone, MDPV, 4-MEC, mephedrone, methylone, alpha-PVP, tramadol, and zolpidem. This installment includes an updated introduction from McCrone Research Institute’s first drug compendium research, A Modern Compendium of Microcrystal Tests for Illicit Drugs and Diverted Pharmaceuticals, followed by monographs for these drugs and reagents:
• alprazolam: gold bromide with hydrochloric acid
• alprazolam: gold bromide with sulfuric acid and acetic acid
• butylone: palladium chloride with hydrochloric acid and phosphoric acid
• butylone: platinum bromide with sulfuric acid
Additional monographs will be published in future issues of The Microscope.

Critical Focus | Science? What Science?

Brian J. Ford
The Microscope 68 (1), pp 33 – 45, 2020
Excerpt: Unscrupulous individuals and institutions are exaggerating their scientific research or are plagiarizing someone else’s authentic work in the quest for inflated grants and recognition.

Obituary | F. Donald Bloss, 1920 – 2020

Dean Golemis
The Microscope 68 (1), pp 46 – 47, 2020
Excerpt: F. Donald Bloss, widely regarded as the father of modern optical mineralogy, died on April 22, 2020, just over a month before his 100th birthday, in Blacksburg, VA. A prolific author, esteemed instructor, and innovator of the detent spindle stage for the polarized light microscope, Dr. Bloss inspired generations of mineralogists, geologists, and microscopists.

Afterimage | Dehydroacetic Acid

Mel Pollinger
The Microscope 68 (1), p 48, 2020
Dehydroacetic acid, quickly melted under a coverslip and slow cooled for 2 hours under a 3 oz. brass weight; Rheinberg illumination and polarized light. (Courtesy of the NYMS Newsletter, October 2019)

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