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The World’s Smallest Movie, Created By Scientists Using Atoms
May 1, 2013
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This video is being called The World's Smallest Movie, and it's pretty incredible.

It was made by researchers at IBM, who managed to manipulate a few dozen atoms on a copper surface to create a stop-motion animated film.

The atoms are moved around with an incredibly sharp metal tip from an electrically charged machine called a scanning tunneling microscope or STM.

And get this: the atoms were manipulated at a temperature of -268C.

"The cold makes life simpler for us...The atoms hold still. They would move around on their own at room temperature," said Andreas Heinrich, IBM's lead scientist on the project.

Heinrich said this is the first time anything so small has been manipulated to tell a story.

And just to give you an idea of how tiny it is - it would take more than 1000 frames of the film to span the width of one human hair.

"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," Heinrich told the BBC.

"Even nanophysicists need to have a little fun," he told The Independent. "In that spirit, the scientists moved atoms by using their scanning tunnelling microscope to make... a movie."

The film, called 'A Boy and his Atom', is 90 seconds and has been officially named the Guinness Book of Records' 'Smallest Ever Stop-Motion Film'.

It sort of looks like a video game back in the day - it shows a boy throwing a "ball" (made of a single atom), dancing and jumping on a trampoline, along with some basic music and sound effects.

Scientists worked 18 hours a day for two weeks to get it done.

"The tip of the needle is both our eyes and our hands: it senses the atoms to make images of where the atoms are, and then it is moved closer to the atoms to tug them along the surface to new positions," said Heinrich.

"The atoms hold still at their new positions because they form chemical bonds to the copper atoms in the surface underneath, and that lets us take an image of the whole arrangement of atoms in each frame of the film.

"Between frames we carefully move around the atoms to their new positions, and take another image," he said.

IBM hopes to use this technology to create future ways of storing data.

"As data creation and consumption continue to get bigger, data storage needs to get smaller, all the way down to the atomic level," Heinrich told The Independent.

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