This tiny film doesn’t feature any big stars like Brad Pitt, or even any littler stars—because there literally wasn’t enough room for them. Instead, A Boy and His Atom stars, amazingly, just a few microscopic particles. Guinness World Records has declared the stop-motion-animated short film “the world’s smallest movie.” The 90-second film consists of a “boy” bouncing an atom-sized ball while dancing and jumping around. There’s not much of a plot but given the methods involved, it’s pretty incredible.
IBM scientists created the film with a “scanning tunneling microscope” that manipulated a few dozen carbon atoms placed atop a copper surface. First they had to chill the microscope to just above absolute zero (-450° F) because at a higher temp, the “excitable” atoms would have ignored their stage directions.
A team of four scientists worked 18-hour days for two weeks to make the pint-sized flick. It’s so tiny that it had to be magnified 100 million times in order to be visible in a standard video format like YouTube. IBM hopes to use the film to demonstrate technology that will allow scientists to manipulate matter on the atomic level and, if all goes as planned, create new forms of data storage.