Bored nerds create some of the most entertaining and amazing stuff out there, but when those nerds are nanophysicists, they screw around with things at the atomic level. And when those nanophysicists work for IBM, they get paid to make things like the world’s smallest movie.
If you don’t catch what’s happening in this one-minute film, it’s a stop-motion animated feature about a boy playing with an atom. It’s rather 8-bit looking, and the boy is kind of a sloppy stick figure, but you can forgive all of that when you realize that they made the film by manipulating individual atoms and magnifying them 100 million times so we can see them.
Thus, the “atom” the boy is playing with is an actual atom. The folks in the lab used a scanning tunneling microscope to manipulate the atoms for the video.
The whole thing is a stunt to get people reading about IBM’s work in atomic-scale memory. (Congratulations IBM, you have our attention.) The company says is has developed the ability to reduce the number of atoms it takes to store one bit of data on a computer from 100 million atoms to 12 atoms. If that makes your brain hurt, that’s because it should.