Neurons, lasers and soy sauce fractals in the Nikon Small World in Motion video winners
The Nikon Small World in Motion competition is more than just a microscopic video competition. Now in its eighth year, this astounding glimpse into these tiny worlds showcases a variety of hypnotically strange sights, from a laser bouncing around a psychedelic soap membrane to trippy fractal footage of soy sauce evaporating.
Back in 1975 Nikon first established its Small World competition, celebrating the magnificence of microscopic photography across a variety of different scientific disciplines. A new sidebar was established in 2011, called Small World in Motion. Highlighting the technological innovations that have led to time-lapse photography, this competition focused on moving images with each consecutive year unearthing more and more mind-bending sights.
"This year's [winning] video represents exactly the kind of cutting edge scientific imaging we strive to showcase in the Nikon Small World in Motion competition," explains Eric Flem, Communications Manager, Nikon Instruments. "As microscope and imaging technologies advance, we are seeing scientifically relevant events better than ever before in visually beautiful detail."
The winner of this year's competition came from a team of scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The researchers study how certain genes affect the development of sensory neurons. The video stunningly shows the sensory nervous system of a zebrafish embryo growing over a 16-hour time lapse.
"I hope people see this video and understand how much we share with other organisms in terms of our development," says Elizabeth Haynes, one of the researchers behind the creation of the remarkable video. "A neuron is a neuron, and it's really amazing how most of the time development goes right when so much could go wrong."
Second place went to a psychedelic little video from researchers at Technion - Israel Institute of Technology. Here we see a laser propagating inside the bizarre swirls of a soap membrane. Beyond the immediate impact of the lava lamp-like patterns and the sprawling laser, the video offers an intriguing insight into the properties of a soap membrane as the light continually finds new and strange pathways through the compound.
No less strange than the first two winners, in third place we see a frighteningly surreal close-up of a polychaete worm digesting its food. This genuinely alien-like video shows the worm making odd movements that displace its dorsal blood vessel.
All up the judging panel awarded five winners but with so many strong entries there were an additional 18 videos recognized with honorable mentions. Some of those amazing other videos include a head-spinning close up of soy sauce evaporating, a look at a Japanese mantis shrimp larva that will haunt your nightmares, and a perspective on stinkbug eggs hatching that is simultaneously cute and horrifying.
Take a look at more of the commended entries over at Nikon Small World.
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