I’m sure you’ve already seen this – the smallest movie ever made, by scientists at IBM. But I LOVE it, so I just wanted to stick it on my blog.
And I’m sorry to be pedantic, but what you see are not atoms, they are pairs of atoms – each ball is a carbon monoxide molecule, one atom of carbon and one of oxygen, stacked on top of each other. The molecules are moved around on a copper plate using a scanning tunelling microscope, or STM (a technique actually invented by IBM scientists in 1986, but now used by scientists all over the world).
As someone who uses STM, along with its sister technique atomic force microscopy, I have some idea of just how difficult and time-consuming this would have been to do. So I am very very impressed by this.
And for those of you who will say “Don’t scientists have something better to do?” etc, I say NO. For me, science is about two things – dialogue and exploration.
A project like this summarises those two things wonderfully – it probably started as a chat over lunch or a beer….wouldn’t it be cool if we could try this? Cue an afternoon playing around in the lab, just to see, just to explore all possibilities.
And as a scientist and science communicator, this kind of thing makes me very happy – just have a look on Twitter for the hashtag #aboyandhisatom – look at the huge numbers of people talking about this video, look at the countries they’re from, look at their profiles…. all sorts of people, all talking about atoms and molecules. Dialogue win 🙂