Every year, Nikon hosts a Small World Photomicrography competition, bringing together the neatest (and smallest) images from microscope slides across the world. The 2014 winners are in, and the results are as wonderful — and creepy — as ever.
First place goes to Dr Mariana Muzzopappa & Jim Swoger for their stop-motion video of the development of the zebrafish lateral line. The lateral line is a sensory organ in fish that can sense water movements, not unlike the inner ear in mammals. The video shows it growing horizontally across the slide, looking scarily like a bad CGI image of ‘mutating virus’ in a low-budget apocalypse movie.
Second place is actually my favorite: a time-lapse of crystals forming in a single drop of caffeine solution, using polarized light to illuminate the formations.
Dr John Hart took third place with this film of oil floating on water. If you squint just a little bit, it looks like moons orbiting some kind of lunar surface. The work is more than just microscope porn, though — the fluid dynamics are relevant to understanding the nature of oil spills (which look decidedly less pretty when you zoom out).
Aside from the winners, there’s a fascinating world of honorable mentions over on Nikon’s site.