The contestants for the Grand Prize Winner of the FEI Image Contest 2013 have been announced. Until October 4, you can vote for your favorite of 12 gorgeously colorized psychedelic images of the microscopic worlds all around us. Here, a Helichrysum italicum flower with pollens (magnification: 652x). Courtesy of Riccardo Antonelli.

FEI is a leading manufacturer of electron microscopes. Every year the company partners with National Geographic in an image contest to see what customers are getting up to with their microscopes. "This picture was taken after the growth by CVD of silicon nanowires on a copper foil with gold on top. When I saw it I remembered the perturbation caused by sun storms on magnetic field of the earth. These nanowires will be used to manufacture anodes of ion-Li batteries," says photographer Isidoro Barriga (magnification: 20,000x). Courtesy of Isidoro Barriga.

Here, bacterial nanocables found in Denmark's Aarhus Bay last year. Courtesy of Jie Song.

These trippy pom-poms are dendritic cells stimulated with adjuvant silicon microparticles and interacting with T cells. (magnification: 16,000x). Courtesy of Rita Serda.

The stuff of nightmares: the mouthparts filter of an aquatic larva of an Asian tiger mosquito, magnified 800 times. Courtesy of Riccardo Antonelli.

And the stuff of dreams: an acacia dealbata (yellow mimosa) flower about to open. The image was taken with the flower in a fresh state, extracted from the tree and put onto the microscope (magnification: 69x). Courtesy of Marcos Rosado.

Here, spreading hedge parsley and its schizocarp (fruit). This sample was air-dried, mounted onto an aluminum stub, and sputter-coated with gold. The image shows one of the seeds within the schizocarp and affords a better appreciation for their cunning hitchhiking techniques. Note the various velcro-like appendages (magnification: 400x). Courtesy of Pat Kysar.

Welcome to the lice Olympics pole vaulting challenge. A monster head louse clings to two human hairs (magnification: 200x) Courtesy of Louwrens Tiedt.

This cross-transverse view of a cigarette filter, showing cellulose acetate fibers, resembles sinister tentacles. This photo was a part of research conducted by Laboratório de Tabaco e Derivados (magnification: 1000X). Courtesy of Francisco Rangel.

Here, a web-like grid used for sample growth and TEM observation (magnification: 20,000). Courtesy of Cyril Guedj.

False arms (pseudopodia) arise from the human fibroblast to engulf silica microparticles (magnification: 60,000x). Courtesy of Rita Serda.

The fractured surface of a snap-off blade knife after breaking off one of the segments (magnification: 3000x). Courtesy of Joern Leuthold.

This photo didn't make it into the final roundup--too scary? A frontal view of a myrmecophilous ground beetle with the antennae removed.

Also excluded from the finals: the head and midpiece of a mouse sperm.

Cells in wood, showing pits and cells running in both directions.

Co.Design

15 Psychedelic Pics Of Microscopic Worlds

A contest invites you to vote for your favorite. Will it be a pole-vaulting head louse Olympian or another's chance to make it big?

Quick, pick your favorite: a pole-vaulting head louse, schizocarp on spreading hedge parsley, or a massive yellow mimosa flower? The contestants for the Grand Prize Winner of the FEI Image Contest 2013 have been announced. Until October 4, you can vote for your favorite of a dozen gorgeously colorized psychedelic images of the microscopic worlds all around us.

Every year, FEI Company, a lead manufacturer of electron microscopes for nanoscale research, partners with National Geographic in an image contest to see what customers are getting up to with their microscopes. Now, out of 315 submissions, finalists compete for two round-trip airline tickets to any U.S. destination.

John Williams, VP of Marketing at FEI Company, tells Co.Design, "Most submitters are scientists or researchers, but are likely using the contest to explore their more creative side. They blend the science of the microscope and the sample with an artistic eye. After capturing the image, most will then colorize the image using commercial photo treatment software to give it their final artistic touch."

Microscopic beasts loom large in these photos: A serious contender in the lice Olympics pole vaults on two human hairs. The aquatic larva of an Asian tiger mosquito is colorized in bug juice-green and brilliant orange in a photo of its mouthparts magnified 800x. (My, what big teeth you have.) The Doctor Seussian helichrysum italicum flower with pollens waves against a clear blue sky. Magnified 1000x, a cigarette filter looks like sinister tentacles reaching for prey.

"The contestants use one of our microscopes to capture the image in much the same way that a photographer does, but with ours the subject is inside the microscope chamber, held under vacuum. Like a photographer, the electron microscope operator positions the subject and adjusts various parameters that affect field of view, focus, and contrast," says Williams.

This year, these images will be part of a National Geographic film, Mysteries of the Unseen World, out November 1st, about all the things on our planet that are invisible to the human eye—either too fast, too slow, or too small. They'll also be included in the iPad app accompanying the film.

So, the polls are open: will the giant louse win? The trippy pom-pom immune cells? The ice-world of a magnified snap-off blade? Take your pick and place your vote.

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