IBM uses atoms to create world's smallest movie

Have you ever wondered what an atom looks like magnified 100 million times and collected together with some other magnified atoms in the shape of a boy, animated, and set to music? If the answer is yes, we've got a short movie after the jump that will make your day. IBM Research, setting out to do something unique and hands-on, has created the world's smallest movie using atoms.

IBM says this project challenged the limits of movie making, and involved positioning the magnified atoms individually for each frame, resulting in the short film you can watch in the video below titled, "A Boy and His Atom." Set against a gray backdrop, the story tells of a boy named Atom and his friend, an atom (such a small medium puts limitations on story options, it seems).

How does one make a movie using atoms? With a very large microscope, says IBM. Specifically, with its scanning tunneling microscope, which was the first means by which scientists got to peer at atoms. It is a huge hulking beast of a machine weighing two tons and running at a temp said to be approximately -268 Celsius. The combination of features allowed the researchers to move the atoms around with high levels of precision. You can get a more detailed look at how it was made in the next video.

The project's principle investigator Andreas Heinrich said: "Capturing, positioning and shaping atoms to create an original motion picture on the atomic-level is a precise science and entirely novel. At IBM, researchers don't just read about science, we do it. This movie is a fun way to share the atomic-scale world while opening up a dialogue with students and others on the new frontiers of math and science."

[via IBM]