Grainy: An Atom's Shadow Spotted For The First Time

July 9, 2012


This is a picture of the shadow cast by a single atom, captured by scientists for the first time. How did they do it? Science. Ooooooooor drew straws and the shortest had to sell their soul to the devil. Not worth it, bro!

To get this to work, an atom of Ytterbium was cooled down to just a few thousandths of a degree above absolute zero in an ion trap. An illumination source was shined onto the atom, and on the other side of it was a fresnel lens that captured and focused all of the light that made it past the atom. The light that didn't make it past (that the atom absorbed) was what created that perfect little atom-sized shadow.

Pretty neat, right? But you know what the most interesting result of the experiment is? Now we know atoms aren't vampires. I don't know about you, but I know I'm gonna be sleeping like a baby tonight. "Because of this?" No, because I just took a handful of Ambien, YES BECAUSE OF THIS.

Hit the jump for a picture of the setup.


Thanks to shannon and Cpt Amazing, one of which tried to tell me it looks like a nipple (it was Cpt Amazing, I don't think he's ever seen one).

  • the setup looks like it was made in powerpoint

  • gooch

    Looks like the splash screen for a Commodore 64 game.

  • Guest

    That is pretty interesting. I do wonder if they can pass certain vibrations on to or around the atoms, making a them perform a shadow puppet show. :D

  • Bradley B

    So, all this time atoms and it's shadows are all made from digital pixels - wild

  • Haha! Where is your god now?

  • Kenlin Bros

    Why would a theist girl ask such a question?

  • Atheists are just as bad as religious fanatics in my opinion, they've just swung to the polar opposite. Religion needs to accept it hasn't got it right, science has clearly shown that. Atheists need to accept they don't know everything, we know an infinitesimally small amount compared to what we don't know.
    Try the middle road? Each side has it's benefits.

  • Gee, it was a joke.

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