IBM Research says it is serious about inspiring interest in science. And its latest effort may well achieve that goal.
Several of the company's scientists recently put the finishing touches on "A Boy and His Atom," which has been certified by the Guinness World Records as the world's smallest-ever stop-motion film.
The project involved shooting 250 frames of a story built around a boy who goes on a playful journey involving dancing, bouncing on a trampoline, and playing catch. The noteworthy part? The film was made at the atomic level, using precisely-placed atoms that were manipulated over several days to tell the story.
IBM Research scientists Heinrich Rohrer and Gerd Binnig won the 1986 Nobel Prize in physics for inventing the scanning tunneling microscope, the device used to precisely manipulate the atoms used in making the film. Last year, IBM Research broke new ground by using the scanning tunneling microscope to prove you could store a bit of information with as little as 12 atoms.
In order to move the atoms around with such precision, the IBM team used a computer to remotely-operate an extremely sharp needle on a copper surface. The needle is placed just one nanometer (a billionth of a meter) away from the surface, allowing it to physically attract the atoms and molecules on the surface in order to move them around to exactly where they were needed.
Even as IBM Research was using its scanning tunneling microscope to produce imagery for its world-record film, "A boy and his atom," they were also generating images that will be included in the iOS and Android app that will accompany the new feature film, "Star Trek Into Darkness."
IBM researchers placed an extremely sharp needle one nanometer (a billionth of a meter) away from a copper surface in order to move individual atoms around for the production of imagery for the "Star Trek Into Darkness" mobile app. This included the creation of an extremely small USS Enterprise.