Sometimes you see a dated movie about old-school technology, and you're like: "Oh, haha, people were so easily impressed." This short film totally looks like that, but it's actually the opposite of that.*
The researchers at IBM used a tool that allows them to carefully move atoms on surfaces, one atom at a time. They are attempting to see how manipulating atoms could help computation and data storage. But then they took a little break and produced a whimsical short film.
Entitled, "A Boy and His Atom," it's about a delightful companionship between a dancing stick figure and his pet, only made from atoms (as is everything, but this is only a few dozen atoms, rather than bazillions**). The atom boy is adorable in the manner of the Littlest Tramp. The atom pet is a petite bundle of joy. It's not the strongest short film regarding plot or character development, but there's a solid surprise ending.
In order to see this tiny video, the carbon monoxide atoms had to be magnified about 100,000,000 times. According to researchers, this means that if the atom were actually the size of the orange, then comparatively, an orange would then be the size of the earth.
- Atom:Orange, Orange:Earth
This is the first time that a project of this sort has even been done, according to Principal Investigator Andreas Heinrich. This film is an example of their effective research to work with an ever decreasing number of atoms. He says that when this can be applied for data storage, it means that rather than being able to store a few movies on your iPhone, you can have all the movies ever made on your iPhone. Including "A Boy and His Atom." Or this 1977 IBM classic, which is the only time I've ever been interested in ratios.
* Well at some point, this endeavor will probably look rudimentary—and it's likely that people will think it was adorable and hilarious that people were ever impressed, but writing from the annals of 2013, this was impressive. Not narratively, or anything, I'm not three. Also, I've wondered before about how making any film about new amazing technological advances needs to be made from the perspective that sometime in the future it will be some sort of joke. So ham it up, right?
** There are approximately 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms in a 150-pound person.
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