Nikon Small World microscopy contest 2021: A few of our favorite images

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Microscopy is essential in many fields of science. We use it to see everything from tiny instruments to the tiny structures inside cells. And microscopy wouldn’t work without input from many fields of science. Chemistry helps with stains and dyes and sample preparation. Physics determines what is possible with different forms of optics. And fields like biology and geology tell us which specimens can give us valuable information. Combined, these devices give us a nearly infinite suite of options for viewing the world of the smaller.

With the right choices among those options, a person with a microscope can do much more than just advanced science; They can make objects of art. Each year, when Nikon releases its results Annual Microscopy Competition, we struggle for new superlatives to describe the images. This year is no exception. So instead of struggling with the words, we will jump straight to the images.


Rock. We tend to think of microscopes as examining living matter, revealing details that are important for understanding cells and the organisms that build from them. But chemicals and minerals also contain details that are not always visible to the naked eye and may also be important to their behavior. We’ve always loved close-ups of crystals and rocks, and this year’s collection of pictures includes a surfeit of them.

Worms. These are the more traditional subjects of microscopy. Many insect species are barely visible with the naked eye, while many others have features that can only be seen under magnification. None of this reminds us that there is a whole world of things going on outside of our daily experience—in some cases, that world exists inside our home.

A little left We’ve shared so many fantastic images, and we haven’t even gotten to some of the smallest objects yet – living cells and the structures they make. I wouldn’t say we saved the best for last, but we definitely have some very, very cool images in this final gallery.

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