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While our journeys are often enjoyed at a slow pace, when we go just a little bit slower and look a little bit deeper there’s always something new to find.

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This episode is sponsored by Wondrium,  a subscription service where you find   the answers to everything you’ve ever  wondered about, and some things you’ve never   imagined you would wonder about!

Head to for a free trial. If the microcosmos is like many tiny oceans all  around us filled with its own fantastic creatures,   you might imagine this paramecium as a  barge traveling through those waters.   All along its edges are many cilia at  work, beating and steering it along.  The striations that stretch down its body  are on full display, long and smooth until   the paramecium brushes up against its neighbors  and those lines compress against each other,   turning the barge into maybe more of a blimp.

Whatever large mode of transportation you choose   to compare it to though, the paramecium  is slow and steady. Except that, actually,   it isn’t. The slowness, the steadiness—we did  that.

All thanks to the wonder of slow motion.  Unless we note otherwise, all of the  footage that you are going to be seeing   in this video today has been slowed  down. James, our master of microscopes,   filmed these videos with a high-speed camera.  We don’t have one of those really fancy cameras   that can record tens of thousands of frames per  second. But it does record at 240 frames per   second, which lets us show you footage  that is eight times slower than what   we would normally show on this channel..

And the results, we think, are beautiful   and kind of soothing and I’ve been really  looking forward to sharing them with you.  Don’t get us wrong, the  microcosmos at full speed is   beautiful and soothing as well. But  like with this ciliate here, sometimes   the spinning and whirling happens so quickly  that it’s difficult to make out the details.   We keep just getting a glance of it before it  moves out of frame or twists out of focus, and   describing the movements it makes seems to take  more time than the movement itself actually does.  But while we cannot command the ciliate  into the right position, we can slow it   down after the fact. And that is amazing.

I mean, imagine the work that early   microscopists had to do, centuries before video  even existed, to illustrate with words and with   drawings what they saw—to evoke movements  in the microcosmos for others who would   never be able to see those exact movements. And not only can we share those moments with   tens or hundreds of thousands of people, we  can slow them down to see new details in them,   like the large vacuole opening and  closing at one end of this ciliate.  Slowing down the microcosmos does not  necessarily mean everything travels at   the same slow speed though. The giant  blepharisma and spirostomum here,   for example, may be idly passing through.  But they’re surrounded on all sides by the   still-frantic rotations and vibrations  of corkscrew-shaped bacteria  And at the other end, we have the spiky  ciliate actinobolina, almost static except   for its toxic tentacles waving like blue  blades of grass in a microscopic breeze.  The movements are subtle, and they can lull  you into a sense that nothing is really   happening.

But this is the microcosmos.  There is always something happening.   It just takes some patience  and attention to notice.  Over time, the actinobolina’s  tentacles have stretched out,   making the organism look  like a faceless pufferfish.  Like we said, we’re fortunate  to have the technology to see   these acts unfold. But this is not the only  way to stretch time in the microcosmos.  In the early 20th century, for example, scientists  wanted to be able to see the movement of cilia   more clearly. After all, cilia is a remarkable  feat of coordination and movement driven not   by limbs, but by hair-like organelles.

However, one cannot simply ask a ciliate   to slow down a bit so that there’s  time to take notes and ask questions.   It will move at its own speed, on its own time. So scientists turned to reagents to do what’s   called fixation, an act that’s like  freezing the cells in a moment in time,   with its last moments on display, like a memory  stuck on repeat until it slowly degrades away.  Now, we’re being a bit melodramatic  about the effects of fixation because   we can be. For our purposes, video gives us all  we need to look at microbes without knowingly   putting them at risk.

We can see this Stentor’s  cilia beating, creating a curled path through   its body. Even the texture of the cilia seems  almost tangible like this, like you could imagine   running your hands across this microbe and  feeling the silky fringe brushing your fingertips.  And for us, with what we hope to see  of the microcosmos, that is enough.  But fixation is a useful technique in biology  that is still used today. And for the scientists   studying cilia motion, fixation allowed them  to see the cilia more clearly, to make out   the structures and coordination at work.

And you can see that movement here on this   didinium, one small band wrapped around the  middle, and a larger band hanging like a giant   mustache. As the camera shifts focus, the hair  along the organism’s body becomes less visible,   and instead the only visible cilia are the  ones flapping on the side of the organism.  Those coordinated movements we see—the ones  that scientists used chemical reagents and   electron microscopy to describe—is called the  metachronal wave. It is each cilia beating just   slightly behind one neighbor and ahead of the  next, like a crowd doing the wave in a stadium.   As each wave travels, through individuals  and then the crowd, the organism moves.  The microcosmos travels at many speeds.

We  see it every week, with each new video on   this channel and the microbes we watch together.  And it is, to us at least, nice to know that   however much we can slow down together to enjoy  this, it is always possible to go just a bit   slower, but when we look deeper, however we do it,  somehow, there is always something new to find.   But also, always another breath we can take,  just to think, to imagine, and to enjoy.  So, thank you for coming on this journey with us  as we explore the unseen world that surrounds us.  And thank you also to Wondrium  for sponsoring this episode.  Wondrium is where you can find the answer  to everything you’ve ever wondered about,   and some things you never imagined you would  wonder about! Their carefully curated collection   of short-and long-form videos, tutorials,  how-to’s, travelogues, documentaries, and more   is academically comprehensive, thoroughly  researched, relentlessly entertaining,   and presented by engaging experts. In a nutshell,  Wondrium is the place for minds that wonder.

There you can find incredible courses  like Mysteries of the Microscopic World,   where they dive into the world of microbes and  discuss how they function, how we discovered them,   how they harm and help us, and how we continue  to compete, coexist, and coevolve with them. If you’re looking to be inspired, Wondrium might  be right for you. And they’re giving Journey to   the Microcosmos viewers a FREE trial!

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If you want to see more from our  Master of Microscopes James Weiss,   you can check out Jam & Germs on Instagram. And if you want to see more from us, there’s  always a subscribe button somewhere nearby.