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World's Smallest Movie

Posted November 14, 2013 9:00 AM by cheme_wordsmithy

While sifting through some articles on developments in nanotechnology, I stumbled onto this video. It's the smallest movie ever made - literally a film of atomic proportions.

The movie, made by IBM, is titled "A Boy and His Atom". It depicts a boy interacting and playing with a ball for about 45 seconds, and follows this with a display of the IBM logo and the company's slogan "THINK". And while it may not be winning an academy award for best story, the story behind the "making of" the film is fascinating.

Via IBM Research -->

The dots you see in the film are actually individual atoms. Technically each dot represents a carbon monoxide molecule made up of an oxygen atom and a carbon atom, but from a top down approach we see only one. Atoms are sized between 0.5 and 3 Ångstroms - one Ångstrom is 100 picometers or 0.1 nanometers. For a sense of scale, if an atom was the size of an orange, the orange would be about the size of planet Earth. Pretty small.

IBM moved the molecules using two scanning tunneling microscopes. These are large machines weighing two tons which operate at minus 268 degrees Celsius. They are not like conventional microscopes which magnify light - instead they read electrical current given off from atoms using a very small metal tip. These readings are reproduced in an image (magnified about 100 million times) to give visual shape to atoms on a surface. The tip can also interact with the molecules and move them around. In IBM's experiment, the machine moved around 5,000 carbon monoxide molecules on a copper surface to create the movie.

The bigger question behind IBM's atomic level work is "How small can you make a magnet and still use it for data storage?" Current technologies use magnetic memory made up of 1,000,000 atoms. Last year, IBM accomplished making the world's smallest reliable magnetic memory bit, sized at 12 atoms. The atoms had the correct ferromagnetic properties in order to be aligned in a way that the group would not interfere with neighboring groups of atoms. The bit was constructed at near absolute zero temperature, but IBM scientists wrote that the same experiment could be done at room temperature with as few as 150 atoms. This atomic-scale work could potentially result in hard disks with 100x denser storage space.

<-- Via IBM Computing

"A Boy and His Atom" was a one and a half minute video consisting of 242 frames, and according to a Wired article it took roughly 10 days of 18-hour shifts to get each frame right. That's 43,560 hours of work. Talk about a lengthy project! And while I'm sure making the Guinness World Records entry was nice, I doubt it was IBM's sole motivation for this big undertaking. More important is the hope that the movie's viewers will come to a greater appreciation for art of science and the things we can discover and learn from it.

Source Article: IBM Research

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Re: World's Smallest Movie

11/14/2013 11:06 PM

...until someone makes a movie about Obama's accomplishments as President.

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Re: World's Smallest Movie

11/16/2013 10:15 AM

No, you are way wrong, a movie about Congress' accomplishments, close to absolute zero in length!

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