Thursday, May 2, 2013

'A Boy And His Atom' named world's smallest movie

It's quite a rare thing to do, but scientists at the International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) have taken the idea of a film short down to new, molecular levels.

The movie, titled "A Boy And His Atom," is the tiniest stop-motion movie ever, with each frame measuring 45 by 25 nanometers (25 million nanometers = 1 inch), but hugely magnified.

The one-minute video of individual carbon monoxide molecules was repeatedly rearranged to show a boy dancing, throwing a ball and bouncing on a trampoline.

IBM's Andreas Heinrich, principal scientist for the project, said this is the first time anything so small has been maneuvered to tell a story.

"This movie is a fun way to share the atomic-scale world," Heinrich said. "The reason we made this was not to convey a scientific message directly, but to engage with students, to prompt them to ask questions."

The Guinness World Records said Guinness certified the movie as "Smallest Stop-Motion Film."

IBM used a remotely operated two-ton scanning tunneling microscope at its lab in San Jose, California. The microscope magnifies the surface over 100 million times and operates at 268 degrees below zero Celsius.

Heinrich said the cold makes life simpler because the atoms hold still and would move around on their own at room temperature.

Scientists used the microscope to control a tiny, super-sharp needle along a copper surface, IBM said. At a distance of just 1 nanometer, the needle physically attracted the carbon monoxide molecules and pulled them to a precisely specified location on the surface.

The dots that make up the figures in the movie are the oxygen atoms in the molecule, Heinrich said.

The scientists took 242 still images that make up the movie's 242 frames.

[With report from Associated Press]

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