Cheeky IBM Scientists Use Atoms to Make World’s Smallest Movie

Credit: IBM

The atom, the basic unit of all matter in the universe, was discovered by scientists in the early 1800s. This month, atoms have become the stars of the world’s smallest movie.

Chalk it up to scientists in need of a creative outlet, or man’s godlike grasp on life’s fundamental building blocks, but the folks over at IBM have unveiled the first ever stop-motion short animated with atoms. Below, see the Guinness World Record-certified, A Boy and His Atom.

The short film was shot using two of IBM’s scanning tunneling microscope, devices that can enlarge a copper surface 100 million times. Using a needle placed only a few nanometers away from their “canvas,” scientists magnetized and manipulated the placement of the atoms to create the motion of a boy running, jumping, and playing with a ball.

A Boy and His Atom recalls the first short films from the turn of the 20th century, when the artistic achievement was more about the technology functioning enough to capture any sort of image. We likely won’t see IBM’s cinematic experiment heralding a new age of atomic filmmaking, but like any great movie, it makes an idea digestible to mass audiences; Science is cool!

To see how the IBM team pieced together their microscopic masterpiece, check out their making of video:

Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches

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