Get ready to watch the world's smallest movie.
It might look like just another crude piece of stop-motion animation, but this 90-second film is really something so much cooler. It's a short film made using a few carbon monoxide molecules, a very powerful microscope and a very small surface. That's right, those little dots in the image above aren't ball bearings or marbles or computer-generated pixels. They're atoms, magnified 100 million times for your viewing pleasure.
Titled "A Boy and His Atom," the film was made by researchers at IBM who are trying to figure out just how closely they can work with atoms to eventually use them as devices for data storage. Obviously, the fewer the atoms, the smaller the microchips, so if you can get down to moving and configuring just a few atoms at a time, you can do some really cool stuff, and this movie is both a test of that atomic manipulation and a demonstration of it. Also, it's just good fun.
To make the film, the researchers placed carbon monoxide molecules on a tiny surface under a microscope, then dragged the molecules into the right configuration using a "needle" (a moving device that used other atoms to kind of chemically drag the carbon monoxide from one place to another). Working frame by frame, they moved the molecules over and over again, taking a picture every time. It's a traditional stop-motion movie, but it's a bit harder to engineer than claymation. The result is both a charming little piece of cinema and a squee-inducing moment for science nerds everywhere.
Check out the full short below, followed by a brief look at how the researchers made the movie.