With Faith, You Can Move Molecules

Let’s say you had the power to move around the very building blocks of existence? What would you do?

If you were IBM, you’d make a stop motion movie about a boy and his atom. It’s called A Boy and His Atom.

The black-and-white film was created using carbon atoms on a copper surface. It kind of looks like BBs in fluid. They moved the atoms around using a scanning tunneling microscope. According to this article on io9.com, that’s a two-ton computer-controlled beast kept at a tempt of -268 degrees Celsius for magnifications of more than 100 million times.

The machine gave the researchers enough control of the nano-environment to push the little guys around with an electrically charged needle into various configurations that looked like, say, a boy on a trampoline.

That’s what semi-God-like power will do to a man. Make him do weird things.

So let’s talk scale. From the article:

Each frame of the IBM video measures a paltry 45 x 25 nanometers. A single inch measures 25 million nanometers across. Putting that into perspective, one nanometer is a thousandth of a thousandth of the size of a piece of rice. So, it would take about 1,000 frames of the film laid side-by-side to extend across a single human hair. Needless to say, this video is HUGELY magnified.

According to IBM, they made the movie, “to engage with students, prompt them to ask questions.” Getting into the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s tiniest film was just a bonus. As was showing off their abilities around individual atoms for data storage applications.