A Boy and His Atom

Scientists Create World’s Smallest Film

Scientists at IBM have given new meaning to the term short film. Researchers arranged atoms on a copper surface to create a stop-motion film of a boy bouncing a ball, where the ball is a single atom. It’s so small, that 1,000 frames from the film side-by-side would be as wide as a strand of human hair. The researchers arranged each frame by passing a metal needle close enough to the copper surface to create a quantum “tunneling current” with the atoms they wanted to move. The film was just a fun project, but it highlights IBM’s recent efforts to manipulate atoms in order to create new forms of data storage.