IBM Manipulates Atoms to Create the ‘World’s Smallest Movie’




Actors have a saying: There are no small rolesIBM is seriously challenging that expression, however, now that it’s created a short film where the actors are actually individual atoms.

A Boy and His Atom would be just like any number of unremarkable animated shorts were it not for the fact that it’s only visible if you use a microscope that enlarges the action by 100 million times. Using techniques it honed after years of researching atomic data storage, IBM created 250 stop-motion frames depicting a boy playing with his (pet? toy?) atom.

How exactly does one manipulate atoms in this way? It’s not cheap: IBM needed to use its two-ton scanning-tunnelling microscope, which operates at minus 450 degrees Fahrenheit, to shoot the film. The microscope moved a “super-sharp” needle to within 1 nanometer of a copper surface, which then could attract and physically move each atom, one by one. Read more…

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