You probably think of Nikon as just a camera company, but it has been in the microscope business longer than it's been making cameras. To show how proud they are of that part of their business, Nikon started the Small World image competition in 1974, and it's still going strong today. Over the years, the competition has included microscopic views of all sorts of things, including carpet fibers, Velcro, neurons, and more. One of the best parts about the images are that they transcend the world of scientific imaging and exist as works of art in their own right. They're not easy to make, either. Anyone who has tried to artistically illuminate a macro photo can attest that lighting a small object can sometimes be harder than lighting a large object.
This year's winner is Gloria Kwan form the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute, who shot an image of a double transgenic mouse embryo at a magnification of 17X. The image shows fluorescent proteins in the embryo, its yolk sac, and its placenta. The embryo itself fluoresces red, as does the placenta (the deeper red that's mostly hidden behind the yolk sac, which fluoresces green. Michael Klymkowsky took seventh place with his image (above) of frog embryos. You can see Gloria Kwan's image, along with the rest of the top 20 winners in our slide show.