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Dances with atoms: IBM researchers create a short film using only microscopic particles

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atom movie
atom movie

A group of IBM researchers took a break from studying atomic data storage to work on something a bit more lighthearted: a stop motion movie made entirely out of atoms. The film, aptly named A Boy and His Atom, was created by arranging atoms with a scanning tunneling microscope and then capturing the arrangement as an image, magnified to over 100 million times its actual size. The final result is a brief 242-frame film that shows a charming story of a boy dancing and playing with an atom. Before its debut today, IBM even had the Guinness World Records verify the short as the "world's smallest movie."

IBM is accompanying the film with a series of short videos explaining the technology that was involved in creating it. In the videos, the team discusses how the microscope is able to both view and manipulate the atoms using a needle and electric current. Though the technology that the team discusses isn't new, they were able to use it in a new way: the black-and-white images and playful music form a strong artistic style that's reminiscent of early film, but at an entirely different scale.