Scientists from IBM unveiled the world’s smallest movie, made with atoms. Yes, actual atoms.  A Boy and His Atom depicts a character named Atom who befriends a single atom.

And exactly how small is an atom? To give you a perspective, if an  atom is the size of an orange, the orange would be the size of the whole planet Earth. IBM microscopes magnified an atom one hundred million times.

The production has been verified by the Guiness World Records to have used thousands of precisely placed atoms to create some 250 frames of stop-motion action. 

Andreas Heinrich (Principle Investigator, IBM Research): At IBM, researchers don’t just read about science, we do it.

How was the world’s smallest movie made?

Atoms were moved with a scanning tunneling microscope, invented at IBM, says the company. Remotely operated on a standard computer, IBM researchers used the microscope to control a super-sharp needle along a copper surface to ‘feel’ atoms.

Only one nanometer (a billionth of a meter) away from the surface, the needle physically attracted atoms and molecules, and pulled them to a specified location on the surface.  As the movie was being created, the scientists rendered still images of the individually arranged atoms, resulting in 242 single frames. 

The same team of IBM researchers who made this movie, also recently created the world’s smallest magnetic bit. They were the first to answer the question of how many atoms it takes to reliably store one bit of magnetic information: 12. By comparison, it takes roughly 1 million atoms to store a bit of data on a modern computer or electronic device.

If commercialized, this atomic memory could one day store all of the movies ever made in a device the size of a fingernail, says IBM.

You can watch the A Boy and His Atom movie here.

You can watch a video on how the A Boy and His Atom movie was made here.

[Image courtesy: IBM]


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