Every year we’re enthralled by the smallest things among us, as scientists capture stunningly beautiful and bizarre images under the microscope. For the first time, the people who bring us the annual Small World Microphotography Competition have caught the world of the tiny on tape.
Behold award-winning videos of the microscopic world, from the vasculature of a chicken egg to a water flea playing with algae. Like the still version of the competition, the movies were judged on whether they were visually outstanding as well as their ability to depict the intersection of science and art, according to Nikon. Some of the videos are scientific breakthroughs in their own right — we told you about one of the honorable mentions, a live-action video of a monkey cell, when it was first published last spring.
The videos feature Small World perennial favorites like zebrafish brains, fruit fly larvae and Arabidopsis thaliana plants, but seeing these things in motion lends them a whole different perspective. You can actually see the movement of tiny cell factories inside nerve cells in a fish brain, and watch the bulbous growth of a new root emerging from a plant’s primary root. Here is a collection of honorable mentions and the top three winners.
This video was the first time Oxford-based pathologist Anna Franz used this technique for injecting ink into a chick embryo. She cut a window into an egg to expose the 72-hour-old embryo and injected ink into its artery under a 3-D microscope to visualize the vascular system. “This movie not only demonstrates the power of the heart and the complexity of vasculature of the chick embryo, but also reflects the beauty of nature’s design,” Franz said.
Technique: Reflected light microscopy
Dr. Dominic Paquet of the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases captured this time-lapse movie of mitochondria transport in the nerve cells of transgenic zebrafish. The cell membranes are green and the mitochondria are labeled in blue.
Technique: Widefield fluorescence
Magnification: 40x objective
Dr. Ralf Wagner, a chemist in Germany, captured this video of a Daphnia, or water flea, playing with a volvox, a type of green algae. He found the specimen in his garden pond, according to Nikon. It doesn’t really reflect deep science so much as an extraordinary view of nature — the daphnia is interacting with its environment, not something you can see up close very often. Wagner said he hopes by reminding viewers how much fun science can be, he might inspire others to take up its study.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.