'A Boy And His Atom' - IBM Created Smallest Stop-Motion Movie

Mayukh Bari29 August 2020 10:54AM IST
2 min read297

Have you ever watched an atomic movie? A movie in which each and every pixel is represented by a single atom. Thanks to IBM scientists, we can now enjoy one such movie.

In 2012, IBM scientists announced the creation of the world's smallest magnetic memory bit, made of just 12 atoms. This breakthrough could transform computing by providing the world with devices that have access to unprecedented levels of data storage. But even nanophysicists need to have a little fun.

To showcase their achievement, the scientists moved atoms by using their scanning tunneling microscope and created a stop-motion movie. The movie was verified by Guinness World Records as The World's Smallest Stop-Motion Film. Now enjoy the atomic movie - 'A Boy And His Atom'.

It took four researchers and two weeks of 18-hour days to make. Each frame measures 45 by 25 nanometers. This 90-second stop motion short is magnified over 100 million times, and shows a figure constructed entirely of carbon monoxide molecules playing and dancing with an atom. They lowered the temperature to around -260℃ so that the atoms held still. IBM Researcher Dr. Andreas Heinrich said,

This isn't really about a particular scientific breakthrough. The movie is really a conversation starter to get kids and other people talking about - and excited about - math, science and technology.

The scale of the movie is so tiny that 1,000 frames can be laid side by side inside a cross section of a single hair. Only the top layer of atoms are in focus, leaving the copper surface blurred. You can actually see the bonds between the particles, appearing as ripples on water.

The achievement was unprecedented and the process required a lot of patience. And in the end, this reminds me of a famous quotation from the actor and the writer J. K. Simmons,

Science isn't about WHY, it's about WHY NOT!