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Electron Strobe Makes Movies of Atoms

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the first-steps-toward-a-nanodisco dept.

Microsoft 33

holy_calamity writes "Some grainy black and white movies are receiving rave reviews from scientists. They are taken by a new microscope which, thanks to a 'strobing' electron gun, can image movement at sub-nanometer scales. Until now, only still images that smeared out movement were possible at such scales. The press release notes, 'The researchers first blasted the sample with a pulse of heat. The heated carbon atoms began to vibrate in a random, nonsynchronized fashion. Over time, however, the oscillations of the individual atoms became synchronized as different modes of the material locked in phase, emerging to become a heartbeat-like "drumming."' Further details and a few animations are available at Caltech's site."

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33 comments

Genre? (4, Funny)

bobdotorg (598873) | more than 5 years ago | (#25856059)

Over time, however, the oscillations of the individual atoms became synchronized as different modes of the material locked in phase, emerging to become a heartbeat-like "drumming."

Clearly it's orgy porn.

Atomic pr0n? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25856077)

How long until pr0n enters the atomic movies market?

Re:Atomic pr0n? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25856135)

Why... do you finally want your chance in the adult film industry?

Very import research (5, Informative)

moteyalpha (1228680) | more than 5 years ago | (#25856151)

This is very exciting to see the possibility that some of the mechanisms of protein folding and DNA protein interaction might be discovered with this technology. It might be invaluable in determining how a prion causes its damage.The rate at which this technology is changing seems to beat Moore's law. I see that graphene for memory has hit 10nm now and may become 3D, which will make a very large factorial change to the scale of memory.

Re:Very import research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25857217)

"The rate at which this technology is changing seems to beat Moore's law"

I've noticed this as well. I think its due to Moore's law applies to semiconductor research progress and not to rates of progress in other fields of science. (In some ways, I suspect Moore's law is partly a self fulfilling idea, as companies in semiconductor research, expect this level of progress from their competitor companies, so they are all moving around this speed). In some other areas of science, work is advancing faster. For example, the rate of progress in DNA sequencing is far greater than Moore's law. I think the incredible progress of DNA sequencing, is due to progress in multiple fields in parallel, all adding up to give an overall far greater rate of change. For example, computers are improving as well as other fields helping DNA sequencing such as nanotech and various areas of biotech, all progressing in parallel.

I think in some ways, its good we are getting towards the end of Moore's Law, as its forcing companies to look to new ways to progress beyond simply trying new ways to make components smaller. I think this is forcing many new ideas to emerge together, and progress in them is occuring in parallel. It also seems likely, a number of these new advances will be possible to use in parallel.

Re:Very import research (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 5 years ago | (#25857361)

some guy here on /. pointed me to 'accelerando', it's a neat sf book that deals with the 'omega point', the singularity at which the rate of change of technology becomes so high that there is no more relation between 'before' and 'after'.

While I'm not sure I buy the premise of the book it is still quite interesting to see how fast tech is now changing. It used to be possible to be more or less current, I don't think that is possible any more.

Re:Very import research (1)

drewvr6 (1400341) | more than 5 years ago | (#25857417)

I'd LOVE to see it beat Moore's La... Oh, sorry. I thought you were talking about beating Michael Moore.

Re:Very import research (1)

SB9876 (723368) | more than 5 years ago | (#25859071)

Unfortunately, you won't be able to get much useful dynamic protein folding info from this setup. For one, protein molecules are too low mass to be visualized except at very low resolutions. Also, being in a hard vacuum, proteins are either dry or encased in ice when in a TEM, making study of their motions moot.

As for graphene memory deviating from Moore's law, keep in mind that conventional fabbing is rapidly approaching the 35 nm scale. Also, graphene fabrication is still a long way from commercialization. If it does become practical, it will probably do so at about the point Moore's law predicts we'll hit those scales. You can actually trace Moore's law backwards (albeit, somewhat messily) to about 1900 or so through discrete transistors, vacuum tubes and mechanical relays. For some reason, the law applies even with radical changes in the underlying tech - kind of spooky.

Re:Very import research (1)

SB9876 (723368) | more than 5 years ago | (#25859129)

Ah, found it here [wapedia.mobi]. It turns out the ref is from Kurzweil (shudder) and is for price per computation, not exactly Moore's law but a similar conceit and arguably a better metric.

Re:Very import research (1)

moteyalpha (1228680) | more than 5 years ago | (#25859731)

IANAC ( I am not a clairvoyant. ) My nephew works in protein folding and a friend of mine works in the area of nanotech and biotech mix. I work with all these technologies , cloning, and many open source tools. The transition from a model that has held for 100 years is hardly earth shattering. A step beyond the manufacturing model is what I think is in process.

My friend and I took a lab together recently and we were able to take a device that was generated by nanotech and clone it into an organism which acts under the 2 ^N law and when you combine the ability to manufacture at this rate with a real molecular computer, it doubles every hour. The first time we did this it definitely surprised me at the ease at which it was done.

I don't think that this specific technology is the only key to knowledge of how things interact in real time at the molecular level. There are several other technologies that I have experimented with in the microscope lab that could be combined to achieve a similar effect.

The idea of parallelism will put a kink in Moore's law too, IMHO. I personally like DNA memory over the graphene concept. Recent discoveries in that area seem to be more possible. I think that each new thing provides a glimpse from a new perspective and that it is the combination of those many views that will place the molecular world into focus.

I worked with monoclonal antibody methods recently and it also provided a glimpse into the world of molecular shape recognition. Automated cell sorting adds another level of understanding. I think that biotech is truly in its infancy now and it seems reasonable that one day soon it will be possible to have a seed that grows to be a computer. Life does this all the time.

Gene sequencing has gone from impossible to $300 and a week delay now, but that changes so fast that I have no clue what it is now, but I did see that someone was harking a gene chip that -might- sequence 4B base pairs in a matter of minutes. I think there is even a $10M x-prize for that.

Not having an experience with this field.... (3, Interesting)

carterhawk001 (681941) | more than 5 years ago | (#25856241)

Can someone tell me what in these movies is actually an atom? I have no doubt the images are very important, but it'd be nice to know where the important bits are.

It's rubbish (4, Informative)

littleghoti (637230) | more than 5 years ago | (#25857019)

transmission electron spectroscopy does not have atomic resolution - the title is misleading. The best a TEM can manage is diffraction patterns from ordered regions.

Re:It's rubbish (1)

koolguy442 (888336) | more than 5 years ago | (#25859391)

While this particular microscope may not have atomic resolution, transmission electron microscopy can indeed achieve atomic resolution. With recent advances in spherical aberration correction, TEMs can see sub-Angstrom (0.1 nm) resolution and scanning TEMs (STEMs) can image individual atoms outside of any ordered lattice. While these instruments are relatively new and, until recently, have been limited to places like Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they are quickly being installed in several universities.

Re:Not having an experience with this field.... (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 5 years ago | (#25858383)

I have significant doubt the images are very important. The result may be important, but the images fail.

It's been a long time since I've seen a more underwhelming set of visualizations.

Re:Not having an experience with this field.... (1)

SB9876 (723368) | more than 5 years ago | (#25859025)

TEM is generally poor at visualizing individual atoms. At the electron energies used, most matter is fairly transparent. It's like trying to view glass beads in a light microscope. Very heavy atoms such as uranium can be seen individually in special circumstances in a TEM. For the most part the images you see are the result of many, many layers of atoms lining up and causing diffraction effects in the beam.

Heisenberg? (3, Interesting)

pub_tib (1308461) | more than 5 years ago | (#25856363)

So..since we can now see an atom's position in space and time does this do anything to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle? I know the principle basically says that when you measure (take pictures of?) the atom that you're moving it in some small unknown way, so what are we really getting a picture of, where it is or where it was? Can we ever actually be more certain, or is Heisenberg's work safe?

Re:Heisenberg? (3, Informative)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#25856631)

I think the uncertainty principal is still safe. What they are doing is equivalent to what they've been able to do before, only fast enough to give an impression of motion.

If you think about measurement at that scale as being equivalent to throwing tennis balls at a basketball and looking at where the tennis balls end up to calculate where the basketball must be, then even if you throw more tennis balls you are still affecting the basketball in an unpredictable way.

Re:Heisenberg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25857953)

"I think the uncertainty principal is still safe"

I think he'll be relieved to hear it.

Re:Heisenberg? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25856639)

heisenberg's uncertainty principle applies to subatomic particles, e.g. electrons, protons, neutrons, etc.

It actually applies to everything. (4, Informative)

The Creator (4611) | more than 5 years ago | (#25857457)

It's just that the bigger something is, the less significant the uncertainty is.

Re:It actually applies to everything. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25858251)

Ah, hence the confidence of elephants.

Re:Heisenberg? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#25857503)

No, danger. Heisenberg stated that you can't know the position AND the momentum with arbitrary precision. However, you are fully able to measure one as accurately as you wish. Besides, from the video and the description, it looks like they're not measuring a single atom, but rather they are strobing a repeating effect.

Re:Heisenberg? (1)

DanielLC (1346013) | more than 5 years ago | (#25860133)

I know the [Heisenberg uncertainty] principle basically says that when you measure (take pictures of?) the atom that you're moving it in some small unknown way

This is a common misconception. What you just mentioned was the observer effect [wikipedia.org]. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle [wikipedia.org] states that the upper limit to the accuracy of the position of a system times the accuracy of the momentum of the system will not exceed Planck's constant. It was originally believed to be related to the observer effect, until they found ways to make multiple particles with the same property. You could then measure the speed of one and the position of the other. Knowing they both have the same speed, you'd have both the speed and the position of the second.

Is that a nano in your pocket...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25856635)

"Some grainy black and white movies are receiving rave reviews from scientists. They are taken by a new microscope which, thanks to a 'strobing' electron gun, can image movement at sub-nanometer scales. "

Finally you geeks can see what you've been missing.

old news (2, Interesting)

noshellswill (598066) | more than 5 years ago | (#25857325)

Well mebby. First "moving molecule" movie I saw was in 1991 ... at Woods Hole. Images were taken with a "near-field" light microscope setup, and clearly ( through a glass darkly ) demonstrated a transporter molecule package-in-hand moving along a cytoskeleton filament. Back and forth. Not atomic resolution - mind - as this article demonstrates(?) , but our class of research scientists was surely awed!

Fir5T (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25857375)

Deve7ope8s

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25858049)

www.myspace.com/an_anti_hero says This is Brilliant! Genius!

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