Video Contest Shows a Whole New (Small) World

These cholesteric liquid crystal shells encapsulating water droplets came in fifth in Nikon's Small World In Motion competition. By Chokniti Khongchum/Shutterstock

At some point or another, we've all peeked into a microscope, probably during a science class. The results are often fuzzy (getting that magnification right always seems to be tricky) but are a low-key kind of interesting as we get a glimpse into this tiny world that's always all around us.

Well, prepare yourself for more of an eyeful thanks to the winners of Nikon's Small World in Motion competition.

The Small World contest started in 1975 as a way to recognize photomicrographers, or people taking stunning pics with their light microscopes. In 2011, Nikon expanded the competition to include videos or time-lapse footage taken through a microscope. Regardless of whether it's photography or cinematography, any type of light microscopy is permitted, and there isn't a limit on the subject matter.

Which is a boon to all of us since it means that we get to see a range of objects, from growing roots to bubbles to the pixels on a smartphone, in a whole new way. Here are some of the winners and honorable mentions from the Small World in Motion video competition for 2017.

This video was the 2017 first place winner. Shot by Daniel von Wangenheim of the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, it shows the root of a mouse-ear cress growing over a period of 17 hours. At a magnification of 20, von Wangenheim used confocal microscopy to capture the movements of the root. The process involves scanning the subject to create a computer-generated view.

Coming in second, this video by Tsutomu Tomita and Shun Miyazaki from a Japanese firm called Timelapse Video, Inc., gets up close and personal with a sweaty human fingertip. You can see the ridges of the fingerprint and droplets of sweat forming along those ridges. Tomita and Miyazaki used stereomicroscopy, or a microscope with two eyes, to provide a perception of depth.

This hypnotic fourth place video shows purified filamentous microtubules (colored cyan) and kinesin motor proteins (colored magenta) forming bundles. Harvard's Bezia Laderman used fluorescence imaging to capture the movement of the substances.

This video of cholesteric liquid crystal shells encapsulating water droplets filmed by Lisa Tran of the University of Pittsburgh's physics department, came in fifth place. Tran used polarized light to gain insight into the bubbles' structure. And to give me a new TrapperKeeper design.

Below, you'll find find a few more videos that received an honorable mention.

Ever wonder what it looked like on a microscopic level when you applied medication to remove a plantar wart? Now you know.

We stare at our cellphones a lot, but it's unlikely you've ever gotten this close to the screen.

This nematode really wants to slither into a trapped air bubble.

This dramatic video shows a malaria mosquito attacked by a fungus.

You can see the rest of the 2017 winners by visiting the competition's official page.