IBM premiers world’s smallest movie - starring 10,000 atoms

IBM says the stop action “A Boy and His Atom,” has even been certified by Guinness World Records organization as the smallest film on the planet

Not that it's going to give the next Daniel Day Lewis movie a run for Oscar gold, but IBM today said it had created the world's smallest movie made from thousands of precisely placed atoms on nearly 250 frames of stop motion action.

IBM says the teensy movie, called "A Boy and His Atom," has even been certified by Guinness World Records organization as the smallest film on the planet.  The movie follows a character named Atom who befriends a single atom and goes on what IBM calls "a playful journey that includes dancing, playing catch and bouncing on a trampoline. Set to a playful musical track, the movie represents a unique way to convey science outside the research community. "

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 In order to make the movie, IBM used its two-ton  Scanning Tunneling Microscope -- which magnifies the atomic surface over 100 million times -- to control a super-sharp needle along a copper surface to "feel" and place about 10,000 atoms. Only 1 nanometer away from the surface, or one billionth of a meter, the needle can physically attract atoms and molecules on the surface and thus pull them to a precisely specified location on the surface, IBM says. The moving atom makes a unique sound that is critical feedback in determining how many positions it's actually moved.   As the movie was being created, the IBM scientists rendered still images of the individually arranged atoms, resulting in 242 single frames.

The same team of IBM researchers who made this movie also recently created the world's smallest magnetic bit based on atoms. They were the first to answer the question of how many atoms it takes to reliably store one bit of magnetic information: 12. By comparison, it takes roughly 1 million atoms to store a bit of data on a modern computer or electronic device. If commercialized, this atomic memory could one day store all of the movies ever made in a device the size of a fingernail, IBM said.

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