Editor's Pick

Super Slow-Mo Photography

Honeybees, as Robert Krulwich recently reported, might be one of the most efficient aerialists around. But the physics of bee flight has been the subject of urban legend and confusion for years: When aloft, do bees somehow violate the laws of aerodynamics, or are their wings an extraordinary, if unconventional, flight mechanism? A Discovery Channel Time Warp video offers some of the most beautiful proof that bees do fly. Shooting at over 2,000 frames per second, Time Warp's high-speed camera showed a bee fervently flapping its wings.

The fascination with slow motion photography has a long history — about as long as the history of photography itself.

The story goes that in 1872, American tycoon Leland Stanford enlisted Eadweard Muybridge, the famed and ill-fated photographer, to help him prove a hunch that galloping horses lift all their hooves off the ground.

Using 24 individual cameras triggered by trip lines, Muybridge produced a series of photos, called "Sallie Gardner at a Gallop", that definitively proved Stanford's hunch.

Horse in motion

The Horse in Motion by Eadweard Muybridge (Courtesy of Library of Congress) hide caption

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By lining up the photos in a zoopraxiscope, a device that played early motion pictures, viewers could watch the horse gallop over and over again — four hooves in flight. Muybridge made a career out of this type of photography, and his innovations made him a leading pioneer in the history of film.

We've come a long way since Muybridge, but even with ultra-high speed cameras, it's clear we're still fascinated by the simplest motions at the slowest speeds.

Nate is an intern with NPR's science desk.

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