We all love a cartoon. Animation is a fiddly and time consuming but I can remember the fun of making flip books. Taking it up a notch, IBM researchers have some more expensive kit than my notepad and pen, and now they’ve used it to make an ‘atomic movie’.

Scanning tunnelling microscopes can image individual molecules on a metal surface, and drag those same atoms and molecules around to make letters and images. Stop-motion animators today make an image, take a picture, change the image slightly, take another picture, and repeat that cycle until they have enough frames to make a film. Put the two together and you get ‘The boy and his atom’ premièring today on YouTube and certified by Guinness World Records as the smallest ever movie. The cast ? Carbon monoxide molecules.

In total the movie is made of 242 frames and I love how you can see the ripples in electron density that surround ‘Adam’ and his bouncy little friend. I’d love to know how long the entire process took, not just the imaging but the tidying up of the image and the putting it together. Using such big machinery cooled down to low temperatures to keep the molecules where they’re put is pretty expensive and labour intensive, so I’m not sure atomic animation will be taken up by Hollywood just yet. But as a demonstration of the control IBM now has over single atoms and molecules the video is pretty neat. IBM has also released a video with some more behind the scenes detail which you can watch here.

My verdict? Well I just tried to make a flip book of a thumbs up, but I think I’ll leave the animation to the professionals. Good job. What do you think?

Laura Howes

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Rating: 9.8/10 (4 votes cast)
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Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)
Atomic animation, 9.8 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
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