Distance Viewing

The first magnifier constructed for scientific purposes is believed to have been designed by the English philosopher Roger Bacon (circa 1220-1292) sometime during the thirteenth century. Most magnifying glasses are double-convex lenses and are used to make objects appear larger. Today our magnification options are vast in both types of magnifiers and the rate in which they can enlarge an object. This blog will look at three basic options to include the monocular, binocular, and electronic magnifier.


Both binoculars and monoculars are intended for long-range observations. However, you will find a few differences while making use of each one. The biggest difference between a monocular and binoculars is how they look as well as how they are being used.

Two reasons you might choose a monocular over binoculars are cost and portability. When you compare a monocular with binoculars of the same specs, you will usually discover that monoculars are available at a generally lower price tag. Plus, since they are both lighter and smaller than binoculars, a monocular provides the benefit of being easier to carry around. While binoculars tend to come with a neck strap the monocular usually comes with a wrist strap. If you have arthritis or other conditions which hurt your hands or wrists, you may not want to wear a wrist strap. Even people with healthy wrists usually do not find a wrist strap as comfortable as a neck strap.

In terms of ease of use monoculars are straightforward. There are only one lens and one focus to adjust. That lets you work very quickly in most situations. Plus, since they do only have one lens, they are easier to maintain than binoculars.

Further information comparing monoculars and binoculars can be found at Optics Mag or this binoculars vs monocular article. ILA’s featured monocular is the 4X12 Monocular.


Binocular Insight states that binoculars, also known as field glasses, are two telescopes which are usually mounted on a single frame aligned side-by-side. They provide magnification for distant objects. They are handheld devices with each telescope dedicated to one eye. Most binoculars come with a neck strap making them easier to carry around.

Focusing a pair of binoculars can take some practice but once figured out can be done quickly. The way binoculars are designed is so you can easily adjust the focus of the telescopes by using a one hand thumbwheel which is called the central focus adjustment. Once the central focus is adjusted, one of the two eyepieces can be further adjusted to compensate for differences between the viewer’s eyes. This is usually accomplished by rotating the eyepiece of each mount.

Unlike a monocular, binoculars can provide a three-dimensional image. Binoculars are designed to be used with or without glasses. Most manufacturers allow for corrective lens in their designs by adding extra focus ability or larger eye relief.

Nightskyinfo provides an in depth look at what the numbers on binoculars mean. All binoculars are described by using a pair of numbers, such as 7×50 or 8×30. The first number, including the x, represents magnification or “power”. This tells the degree to which the object observed is enlarged. For example, a 7x binocular makes an object appear seven times closer than when viewed by the naked eye.

The second number in the two-number code is aperture, the most important specification of binoculars if you plan to use them for astronomical observations. It represents the diameter of each of the objective lenses (the lenses furthest from your eye), given in millimeters. Therefore, 7×50 binoculars have objective lenses 50 mm in diameter. Aperture is so important because it determines the light gathering ability of your binoculars. Most celestial objects glow very dimly, so a large aperture becomes much more important in low light conditions. For example, 35 mm binoculars will do great when you watch a baseball game on a sunny day, but when used to observe the night sky you will find that they are pretty useless compared to typical 50 mm binoculars.

ILA’s featured binocular is the 2.8X Sports Spectacles.

Electronic Magnifiers

The American Foundation for the Blind has a three-part series discussing electronic magnifiers. People with low vision have more choices than ever when it comes to magnification. You can choose from full-sized desktop electronic magnifiers (once called CCTVs), portable units that are small enough to fit in a laptop bag, and handhelds you can tuck into a pocket or purse.

Part 1: Identify Your Priorities: This article looks at such things as portability, features, and cost. You will learn how to ask the right questions, not just about products you’re considering, but about how you will use a magnifier in your daily life, at work, at school, at home, or on the go. In this first article, the focus is on you, the potential magnifier buyer, and how understanding your priorities is key to making a good purchase decision.

Part 2: Larger Magnifier Systems, Specs, and Features: This second article will take a deeper dive into the world of desktop and transportable magnifiers, explaining how their components work together, and guiding you through the most important specs and features.

Part 3: Handheld Magnifiers: Finally in this third article, the focus is on electronic magnifier products with the goal of helping you identify the features you need, and answering the question: given so many options, who needs a standalone electronic magnifier, anyway? If you are in the market for a handheld magnifier, ILA is currently featuring the Explore 8 Handheld Electronic Magnifier.

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Spring is in the Air

Springtime usually means outings, concerts, picnics, and other assorted crowd gathering activities. This year, however, with the threat of covid-19 in the air spring will take on a different feel. It is still possible to enjoy the things you love albeit in a slightly different way. You may also find new things to love that you have never tried or thought of doing before. This blog will look at a sampling of the fun spring related ideas that you can still participate.

Home Gardening

According to an article from the Farmer’s Almanac, gardening for the first time can be daunting at first, but gardening is an incredibly rewarding hobby to get into.  If you have never tasted garden-fresh vegetables (lots of people haven’t!), you will be amazed by the sweet, juicy flavors and vibrant textures. There is absolutely nothing quite like fresh veggies, especially if you grow them yourself—which you can! The linked article provides a gardening for beginner’s guide to growing plants for the first time.

Live in an apartment? No worries there are still some gardening ideas available for you too. When it comes to having a garden, space is not an issue. You can grow plants just about anywhere. So even if you live in a tiny apartment, you can grow some green. Why stop with pretty flowers? Consider growing your own herbs, fruits, and vegetables and really indulge your gardening senses.  This article from the Spruce offers tips and tricks for growing plants from within an apartment or otherwise smaller dwelling.


Photography is a fun hobby that can be enjoyed year-round. You do not have to have a fancy camera or even a standalone camera, a smartphone will do too. This article from Digital Photography School explores ten benefits that can be gained from having photography as a hobby including recording events and capturing memories, being creative, having fun, and continued learning to help keep the brain strong.

If the only camera available to you is your smartphone, PC Magazine offers tips and trips to take more professional looking photographs including learning your camera’s features, purchasing add on lens, and editing your shots.

Chalk Art

Thousands of chalk drawings and signs have made people’s walks during coronavirus a little better. You can find articles, groups, and photos of all kinds where people have decorated their sidewalks, fences, and other stationary outdoor objects with their chalk art. Several hashtags have also come into being including #chalkyourwalk, #sidewakchalk and #chalkart.

Under stay-at-home orders, the outdoors is one of the few places people can go to get out of the house. Neighborhoods across the country have encouraged their residents to chalk their sidewalks and driveways to make the day a little brighter. Some people have said that seeing the drawings and messages on their walk reminds them that they are not going through the pandemic alone. The MIami Herald has a nicely written article with sample photos illustrating this movement.

Quarantine Karaoke

If you love to sing, love to hear others sing, or just miss going to your favorite karaoke hot spot there is a group on Facebook to help you ease (or sing) the blues. Quarantine Karaoke is a group created by Joseph Meyers. In the group’s “about” section, Mr. Meyers says “You are encouraged to post videos of yourself singing your favorite songs to distract from the world pandemic and pull each other closer together. Positive vibes only and FUN is a requirement!” While it is a private group you are encouraged to join and invite your friends. As of the writing of this blog the group is currently up to 566,478 members from everywhere in the world. Please note that it is always important to review this, or any, group’s rules prior to joining. The number one rule for this group is to be nice. No bullying will be tolerated. Use the link above if you are interested in joining and to read the rest of the group rules.

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The Healing Power of Music

If you ask someone who is their favorite band or musician often, you’ll be met with there being far too many to name. When a favorite is proclaimed it’s likely that a few more will ultimately also be named if the conversation continues. Music is a universal language that makes the heart sing, the body heal, and the soul feel complete. The right kind of music can do all these things anyway. Music that works for one person may not work for another which is where music therapy comes into play. This blog will look at the origins of music therapy, how music can be medically beneficial, and resources to direct you to learn more.

Origins of Music Therapy

PSYCOM provides an in-depth slideshow looking at the origins and continued benefits of music as therapy. While modern music therapy may be a 20th-century “invention,” it is by no means a new concept. Ancient Greek philosophers used music therapeutically, playing tranquil flute melodies to manic patients, while people with depression were treated to the soothing sounds of a dulcimer (an instrument similar to a zither).

Physicians and musicians were housed in holy healing shrines—further cementing the intertwined relationship that music and healing had in Ancient Greece. Early Ancient Egyptian medical papyrus texts describe chant-like incantations for healing the sick. And within Chinese medicine, a tradition with an ancient lineage, music is seen to correspond to the five different organ and meridian systems, which can be used to promote healing.

It further illustrates that old is new again starting with the Tibetan singing bowl that originated in the 12th century oft performed by Buddhist monks. Today wellness centers offer sound baths where practitioners incorporate singing bowls into experiential musical therapy.

Modern music therapy originated during World War II. Many soldiers struggling with physical and emotional trauma (such as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD) were institutionalized, unable to function in society. Volunteer musicians of all types, both amateur and professional, began playing for hospitalized veterans.

Noting the positive physical and emotional impact, doctors and nurses started requesting regular visits from musicians. It was thought that hearing familiar songs helped stabilize and calm the soldiers—bringing them back to a more peaceful time before the war. Overtime, standards and training programs began to emerge. In 1944, Michigan State University founded the first college music therapy program, a step toward codifying the approach as a therapeutic discipline.

Medical Benefits

The PSYCOM article referenced above, along with this article from Harvard Medical School look deeper into how music can be therapeutic for nearly all that ails you. Music as therapy has shown positive and beneficial effects in managing a host of medical conditions, like high blood pressure, as well as an effective treatment for some mental health conditions. Usually part of a multi-pronged approach to care, music therapists work with doctors, nurses, social workers, and other practitioners to alleviate depression, trauma, schizophrenia, and more

A growing body of research attests that music therapy is more than a nice perk. It can improve medical outcomes and quality of life in a variety of ways. Here’s a sampling:

Improves invasive procedures. In controlled clinical trials of people having colonoscopies, cardiac angiography, and knee surgery, those who listened to music before their procedure had reduced anxiety and a reduced need for sedatives. Those who listened to music in the operating room reported less discomfort during their procedure. Hearing music in the recovery room lowered the use of opioid painkillers.

Restores lost speech. Music therapy can help people who are recovering from a stroke or traumatic brain injury that has damaged the left-brain region responsible for speech. Because singing ability originates in the right side of the brain, people can work around the injury to the left side of their brain by first singing their thoughts and then gradually dropping the melody.

Reduces side effects of cancer therapy. Listening to music reduces anxiety associated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It can also quell nausea and vomiting for patients receiving chemotherapy.

Aids pain relief. Music therapy has been tested in patients ranging from those with intense acute pain to those with chronic pain from arthritis. Overall, music therapy decreases pain perception, reduces the amount of pain medication needed, helps relieve depression, and gives people a sense of better control over their pain.

Improves quality of life for dementia patients. Because the ability to engage with music remains intact late into the disease process, music therapy can help to recall memories, reduce agitation, assist communication, and improve physical coordination.


Want to learn more or find a therapist in your area or even learn strategies from the safety of your own home? These resources can be of assistance.

American Music Therapy Association: This site gives the basics of what music therapy is, where you can find a qualified therapist, and the prerequisites a therapist must have in order to be licensed.

Positive Psychology: This article provides 15 music therapy activities and tools that can be tailored to your own needs.

The Certification Board for Music Therapists:  CBMT promotes excellence by awarding board certification based on proven, up-to-date knowledge and competence in clinical practice. Their vision is to ensure access to safe, effective music therapy services for all.

World Federation of Music Therapy: An international nonprofit organization bringing together music therapy associations and individuals interested in developing and promoting music therapy globally through the exchange of information, collaboration among professionals, and actions.

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Enjoying the Arts from Home

Enjoying the arts has always been a way for people to escape their every day lives. During this time, where most people find themselves staying at home, it may be necessary to find more creative ways to escape into the world of the arts.  Below you will find just a few examples of some of the many free options to help pass the time more enjoyably.

Music and Dance

Andrew Lloyd Weber Free Online Musicals: Andrew Lloyd Webber is streaming a production of one of his musicals on YouTube every week while theatres are closed due to the coronavirus.  The first in the series will be the composer’s 2000 production of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat starring Donny Osmond, Joan Collins and Richard Attenborough. It will be available to watch on the YouTube channel The Show Must Go On for 48 hours, starting on Friday April 3rd at 7pm GMT. The series will continue every Friday for the next few weeks.

Online Dance Classes: Dancers, choreographers and studios are turning to online platforms including Instagram and Zoom to keep people moving through the coronavirus outbreak. Some of these options are free while others have a charge that’s listed in the info for that site.

Virtual ‘Love Sweet Love’ From Quarantined Berklee College of Music Students: This is a virtual performance of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “What the World Needs Now Is Love” by students from Boston Conservatory at Berklee and Berklee College of Music. Be sure to watch through the credits to enjoy videos of some of the students dancing. If there’s a sliver of a silver lining in these uncertain times, it’s music — from free virtual concerts to free streaming music.

Fine Arts and Museums

Free Online Art Classes: Illustrators have stepped up to create virtual resources and free classes for kids, parents, and anyone else who needs a creative break in the midst of the pandemic.

Free Online Nkion Photography Classes: Nikon is offering free online photography classes for all of April. Now through April 30th.  All 10 classes available at the Nikon School can be streamed for free. The classes are normally priced anywhere between $15 to $50 each.

Museum Virtual Tours: Experience the best museums from London to Seoul in the comfort of your own home. Google Arts & Culture’s collection includes the British Museum in London, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Guggenheim in New York City, and literally hundreds of more places where you can gain knowledge about art, history, and science. This collection is especially good for students who are looking for ways to stay on top of their studies while schools are closed.

Just for Fun

This section offers a few fun and silly options that can be found to help add joy to your life. These options range from recreating world renown art, having 3D animals appear in your home, and bedtime stories with Dolly Parton.

Recreating World Renown Art: Get creative and share your creations. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles tweeted a challenge to art fans to post photos of themselves recreating their favorite works of art from the safety of their homes. People responded with a lot of enthusiasm and flooded social media with their unique artistic interpretations. You can either view the first link to CNN with images of some of the artwork or view the second link to the museum’s Twitter page to see them all.

Smartphone fun: If you type an animal name into Google from an iPhone or Samsung phone and then press “view in 3D” it’ll bring up your phone’s camera and within 30 seconds an image of the animal in 3D.   Once it pulls up you can then take a photo of your family “interacting with” the animal anywhere from your residence. If you do not have one of those type smartphones, it’ll just bring up the animal image in 3D making its native sound and you can twirl the animal around from all sides to look at it. Some of the available animals are lion, tiger, cheetah, shark, hedgehog, duck, emperor penguin, wolf, angler fish, goat, rottweiler, snakes, eagle, brown bear, alligator, and horse. Other categories that can be seen in 3D include NASA/space and the human skeleton.

Bedtime Stories with Dolly Parton:  Calling herself “the book lady,” Dolly invited everyone to join her for “Goodnight with Dolly. ” She will start reading to kids every Thursday night at 7 p.m. beginning April 2nd and lasting for the next 10 weeks. The first book read was “The Little Engine That Could.” The books featured in the series include: “There’s a Hole in the Log on the Bottom of the Lake” by Loren Long; “Llama Llama Red Pajama” by Anna Dewdney; “I Am a Rainbow” by Parton; “Pass It On” by Sophy Henn; “Stand Tall, Molly Lou Mellon” by Patty Lovell; “Violet the Pilot” by Steve Breen; “Max & The Tag-Along Moon” by Floyd Cooper; “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña; and “Coat of Many Colors” by Parton.

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