IBM researchers working on how to store data atom by atom created this short film. They call it A Boy and his Atom, and it holds the Guinness World Records™ record for the world’s smallest stop-motion film. Sure, it looks kind of old-fashioned and Pong-like, but it looks a lot cooler when you think about it – that it was made by moving individual atoms, the smallest particles of any element in the universe.
The IBM researchers used a scanning tunneling microscope to move thousands of carbon monoxide molecules (two atoms stacked on top of each other), all in pursuit of making a movie so small it can be seen only when you magnify it 100 million times.
Here’s an IBM scientist talking about how they made the movie. This short behind-the-scenes documentary takes you inside the lab.
By the way, in 1990, IBM became the first to use a scanning tunneling microscope to manipulate atoms. And what did they choose to share with the world in their announcement of the first manipulation of atoms? Well, the initials IBM, naturally!
Bottom line: IBM researchers created a short film made by manipulating individual atoms, called A Boy and his Atom.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.