A Universe on the Head of a Pin
Nikon’s Small World photomicrography winners for 2013 have been announced, and they are as marvelous as ever.
If you’re like me, you enjoy the idea of discovering new worlds, being star stuff, the universe knowing itself, and all that jazz. And when we speak of accessing a universe that we never before knew existed, we naturally look to space. We are regularly transported beyond the here and now through the lens of the telescope. First we used visible light, and then ventured into further reaches of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is such a humble invention, and it has so humbled our species.
The microscope is just a telescope turned on its end. It has, like its distant-gazing predecessor, transported us to new worlds and new discoveries. And it has also changed how humans view their place in the universe, perhaps even more profoundly than the telescope. Since the era of Hooke and van Leeuwenhoek, observations of the small world have shaken the idea that man is in some way a privileged creature.
Not only are we but a speck among infinite specks in the universe, but we are merely one arrangement of living matter in a world full of it, a single page in a book of splendor, thriving at every scale.
How lucky we are to be the only ones who know it!
Anyway, I respect the Nikon judges’ decisions and all, but I picked my own list of favorites here. Enjoy (from top):
- This section of muscle and nerve reminds me so much of Ramon y Cajal it’s not funny.
- The fluorescently-labeled nerves of an 11-day-old mouse embryo and the painted bones of a chameleon.
- The “atomic Velcro” foot pad of a beetle and the molecular might of a spider’s web trapping an insect.
- Images go abstract with swirling silicon dioxide and a turtle’s retina.
- Last but not least, it’s a freakin’ parasitic wasp larva coming out of a spider.
Enjoy the rest in Nikon’s gallery.