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A boy and his atom

Legs bent

Scanning tunneling microscope

Frames of atoms

Jumping high

Boy hops

Boy with atom

IBM

Star Trek

1 nanometer Enterprise

Atomic Star Trek

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.

Caption by CNET Reviews staff / Photo by IBM Research
In order to create the 250 frames, a team of IBM researchers spent nine 18-hour days moving 130 atoms around with the company's Nobel Prize-winning scanning tunneling microscope.
Caption by CNET Reviews staff / Photo by IBM Research
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.
Caption by CNET Reviews staff / Photo by IBM Research
It took four IBM Research employees nine 18-hour days to shoot the 250 frames used in "A boy and his atom."
Caption by CNET Reviews staff / Photo by IBM Research
IBM Research principal investigator Andreas Heinrich said he hopes that the film will get people excited about science and technology.
Caption by CNET Reviews staff / Photo by IBM Research
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.
Caption by CNET Reviews staff / Photo by IBM Research
When an atom was moved, it made a distinct sound that could be recognized by the scientists, which was essential for them to know that they'd gotten the atom in the exact position they wanted.
Caption by CNET Reviews staff / Photo by IBM Research
Though the film is meant to generate new interest in science and technology, IBM couldn't resist the opportunity to do a little self-promotion.
Caption by CNET Reviews staff / Photo by IBM Research
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."
Caption by CNET Reviews staff / Photo by IBM Research
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.
Caption by CNET Reviews staff / Photo by IBM Research
The atomic-level filmmaking method was used to create multiple Star Trek images, including this one, depicting the "live long and prosper" sign at the atomic level.
Caption by CNET Reviews staff / Photo by IBM Research
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