Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Boy And His Atom (Special Wednesday Edition)

First off, watch A Boy And His Atom.

Now watch the "Behind the Scenes" video about how the above movie was made.  
Now, go back and watch A Boy And His Atom again.
"You know, we're trying to make a movie using atoms, and so, that sounds like a simple concept. . ." No, no it does not sound like a simple concept.  That sounds ridiculous and crazy and incredibly fucking difficult.  I would say that is the very definition of "not easy."

I love size comparisons, especially when it comes to objects that I don't have a full comprehension of their size relative to myself as a 6'2" (190 cm) Homo sapien.  I couldn't tell you off hand the size of an atom, but even if I said that an atom is 100,000 femtometres, that wouldn't mean anything.  Even breaking it down to "an atom is 0.000000000000001 metres in size", I still can't picture the size.  So when Andreas Heinrich said that "If an atom was the size of an orange, then the orange would be the size of the whole planet Earth."  Now that's something I can wrap my head around; and feel incredibly weird/odd/small/out of place, all at the same time.  Bill Nye the Science Guy did a segment showing the relative size of our universe and the distances between interstellar bodies and the nearest star to our own.  And of course there's the cosmic zoom-out from Contact (1997).

Then there's Scale of the Universe which will show you the size of objects from quantum foam to the size of the observable universe.  Now, I'm not going to attempt to understand quantum foam beyond the fact that it is a "concept" in quantum mechanics.  What are the mechanics of quantum?  Couldn't tell you.  What really makes me feel queasy is the "largest" object in the group, the "Estimated Size of the Universe."  In my mind, the universe should be infinite and to say that it is "not," just makes me feel very odd, like a crushing sensation while a camera zooms out at immense speed, somewhat like the Hitchcock Zoom, but with me in the middle and the universe everywhere else.

KJas;dlkjfalskjdhf;jfdhsglafdskjfdkljh, blarg.

So that's A Boy And His Atom.  And I really hope, and I wouldn't be surprised if the name came from the NES game A Boy and his Blob: Trouble in Blobalonia, but at the same time, I wouldn't be surprised if no one associated with the short film had never played the game.  And that's where video games come in for this special Wednesday edition of our little corner of the internet.

Only The Penitent Man Will Pass


  1. As an update, the same group of IBM scientists geeked/nerded out a bit (more) and made some Star Trek related images out of atoms as well, viewable on the Star Trek website:

  2. #1: Holy shit. Freaking out.
    #2: I had no idea that we could even look at atoms so directly, let alone *move* them around
    #3: I love how in the 'making of' video they wait until like halfway through the video before actually explaining *how* they move atoms, so my jaw is just hanging open the whole time, as they talk about moving atoms like it's such an ordinary thing, and not mindblowing in the least
    #4: It's actually a pretty good little movie! The atom trampoline does resemble A Boy and his Blob
    #5: I wonder if atoms really arrange in that sort of hexagonal pattern naturally.
    #6: Holy shit, those are atoms, and these people just PLAY AROUND with SINGLE ATOMS! wtf?
    #7: I wanna play with atoms
    #8: they remind me of tiny metal beads. That doesn't seem right
    #9: what is all the empty space around them? is it just empty space?
    #10: my brain hurts.
    #11: I can keep doing this, but I'll stop now.