World's tiniest film stars carbon atoms as the lead actors
Published Wednesday, May 1, 2013 9:32AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 1, 2013 11:47PM EDT
It took four scientists two weeks of 18-hour days to create the "world's smallest movie" -- with carbon atoms in the starring roles.
Researchers at IBM created the whimsical stop-motion film, titled "A Boy and his Atom," using thousands of precisely placed atoms for the nearly 250 frames necessary to tell the story.
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In the film, a stick-figure boy befriends a single atom. The boy dances with the atom, plays catch, and even bounces on the trampoline that the atom transforms into.
“Capturing, positioning and shaping atoms to create an original motion picture on the atomic-level is a precise science and entirely novel,” said Andreas Heinrich, principle investigator at IBM Research, in a news release.
He added: "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."
Scientists working on the film used an IBM-invented device called a scanning tunneling microscope. The two-ton invention has a magnification power of over 100 million times, allowing scientists to visualize all the way down to the single atom level.
And because it operates at precisely controlled temperatures, pressure and vibrations, scientists were able to actually move the atoms around using a super sharp needle on a copper surface, controlled by a standard remote desktop computer.
Christopher Lutz, a research scientist at IBM who also worked on the project, said few people realize how tiny a single atom actually is.
"If an atom was the size of an orange then that orange would be the size of the whole planet," Lutz said in a video explaining how the film was made and providing context to the team's huge undertaking.
The project has been verified by Guinness World Records as the smallest film ever made, IBM said.
The film runs one minute, 35 seconds in length.