The Nikon International Small World Competition awards photographers for their renderings of the beauty and complexity of teensy things through the light microscope. The resulting photomicrographs must not only awe but also contribute significantly to various scientific disciplines. From alien-looking insects and worms to cells that would make stunning decorations, the 2011 award-winning photographs are both stunning and informative. Take a stroll into the world of the small.
First place in the 2011 Nikon Small World photograph competition went to this photograph of an itsy-bitsy green lacewing larva. The bug landed on photographer Igor Siwanowicz and bit him; Siwanowicz retaliated by turning the insect into art.
A blade of grass magnified 200 times took 2nd place in the Nikon Small World photography competition, 2011.
The third place winner of the 2011 Nikon Small World contest was this photo of living Melosira monliformis, a type of algae.
Robin Young of the University of British Columbia took 4th place in the Nikon contest with this magnified image of liverwort.
Get ultra-close with electronics with this 5th-place winner of the Nikon Small World contest. This is the surface of a microchip.
Sixth places in the Nikon Small World contest went to Dennis Callahan for this picture of cracked gallium arsenide solar cell films.
This image of mouse nerve fibers lit up the judges and won 7th place in the 2011 Nikon Small World contest.
Italian geoscientist Bernardo Cesare took 8th place in the Nikon contest for this close-up image of a graphite-bearing granulite from India. Cesare talked to LiveScience about his work in August; see more of his beautiful photography here.
The marine copepod Temora longicornis takes on subtle hues in this 9th-place-winning photograph.
Don't be bashful, little flea -- you've won 10th place in the 2011 Nikon Small World contest. This is a freshwater water flea, Daphnia magna.
Eeeek! A fluorescing ant head/horror movie monster took 11th place in the Nikon Small World contest.
This colorful image of cancer cells took 12th place in the 2011 Nikon competition. These HeLa cells are the descendants of a seemingly immortal cancer cell line taken from the cervix of Henrietta Lacks, a black woman born in Virginia who died of her disease in 1951, never knowing how important her cells would become to medicine.
A curare vine (Chondrodendron tomentosum) in cross-section took 13th place in the Nikon competition.
Bet you didn't know how shapely sand could be. These grains took 14th place in the 2011 Nikon Small World contest.
No, this is not a rip in the fabric of space-time. This is a close-up look at a lobe coral's pigmentation response.
Cultured cells grow on a bio-polymer scaffold in the 16th place winner of the 2011 Nikon Small World contest.
Filaria worms lurk inside lymphatic vessels in a mouse's ear. This shudder-worthy image took 17th place in the 2011 Nikon Small World competition.
The delicate veins of a quaking aspen leaf, magnified four times, took 18th place in the 2011 Nikon contest.
Nikon winner Donna Stolz is ready for Christmas -- on a microscopic level, at least. This is a collage of mammalian cells, stained to reveal various proteins and organelles and then assembled into a wreath. Happy holidays!
20th place has been waiting a long time for this -- 150 million years, to be precise. This image of agatized dinosaur bone cells magnified 42 times rounds out the top 20 in the 2011 Nikon Small World photography contest.