IBM Manipulates Atoms Individually to Make World’s Smallest Movie

Friday, May 03, 2013
(screen capture: IBM)

The world’s smallest movie runs only as long as the time it takes to microwave a bag of popcorn. But its creation is still a pretty big deal for the future of computer technology.


Researchers at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California, utilized a scanning tunneling microscope to manipulate dozens of carbon atoms—the result of which was a 90-second, stop-motion animation called A Boy and His Atom.




The Guinness Book of World Records certified the film as the tiniest work of movie magic to date.


A Boy and His Atom is so small that a thousand frames of the film laid side by side would be no bigger than a single human hair.


IBM says the film demonstrates the growing ability of scientists to manipulate matter on the atomic level, a development which they hope will help create new, smaller, data storage solutions.


In 2012, IBM scientists managed to store one bit of data, the smallest unit of information, in only 12 atoms.  This is in contrast to the million or so atoms it takes to store one bit on a current modern hard-disk.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Aaron Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Atoms Star In World's Smallest Movie From IBM (by Jason Palmer, BBC News)

Tiny Toon: IBM Makes a Movie Out of Atoms (by Harry McCracken, Time)

A Boy And His Atom: The World's Smallest Movie (IBM)

IBM Researchers Make 12-Atom Magnetic Memory Bit (BBC)

The Scanning Tunneling Microscope (Nobel Prize)


Robert Singleton 5 years ago
Now let us see "A Girl and Her Atom," please.

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