Since 2011, the Nikon Small World in Motion Competition has been the showcase for some of the very best in science visualization. It’s not just about the science shown in each video submitted, but the art as well. Everything from the development of a zebrafish’s lateral line to immune cells attacking cancer can look as creative and complicated as the science hidden behind the visuals. This year’s winners are no exception, with the top prize showing the real-time development of a fish’s vital sense organ.
First place went to Dr. Mariana Muzzopappa and Jim Swoger for their video of a zebrafish lateral line developing over the course of 36 hours. As time progresses, we see a cluster of cells laying down the framework for what will effectively be the fish’s “inner ear” — the lateral line senses water movements around the fish’s body.
Finally, third place went to Dr. John Hart at the University of Colorado Boulder for his microscopic capture of droplets of oil in water. The video shows the brilliant sheen of the oils coalescing into larger droplets as evaporation encourages them to dance around.
One of the most deadly battles your body can have happens at the small world scale between your immune system and cancer cells. The video below from Alex Ritter, Dr. Bi-Chang Chen, Dr. Wesley Legant & Dr. Liang Gao of the National Institutes of Health shows this surprisingly vigorous tussle:
Lacrymaria olor, “swan tear” in Latin, is a tiny protozoan that can extend its neck up to seven times its body length in the search for food. And in the video below from Wim van Egmond, we can see just how voracious the little bug can be:
But for our money, this honorable mention video of a rotifer, a microscopic water beast, is mesmerizing. All the odd movements, the surprisingly detailed internal organs, the red eyes (which are sometimes just a single cell)…it’s all so otherworldly that it’s hard to look away:
You can view all 17 of the winners and honorable mentions here.