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Microsoft Science Technology

Electron Strobe Makes Movies of Atoms 33

Posted by Soulskill
from the first-steps-toward-a-nanodisco dept.
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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Electron Strobe Makes Movies of Atoms

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  • Mmmm (Score:2, Funny)

    by bi$hop (878253)
    "The researchers first blasted the sample with a pulse of heat." That's what she said.
  • Genre? (Score:5, Funny)

    by bobdotorg (598873) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @03:36AM (#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.

  • Very import research (Score:5, Informative)

    by moteyalpha (1228680) * on Saturday November 22, 2008 @04:06AM (#25856151) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • by replicant108 (690832) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @07:00AM (#25856691) Journal

      graphene for memory has hit 10nm now and may become 3D, which will make a very large factorial change to the scale of memory.

      More info here: http://www.physorg.com/news146497821.html [physorg.com]

    • by jacquesm (154384)

      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.

    • by drewvr6 (1400341)
      I'd LOVE to see it beat Moore's La... Oh, sorry. I thought you were talking about beating Michael Moore.
    • by SB9876 (723368)

      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 commercializat

      • by SB9876 (723368)

        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.

      • 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 ac

  • by carterhawk001 (681941) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @04:39AM (#25856241) Journal
    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 (Score:5, Informative)

      by littleghoti (637230) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @09:00AM (#25857019) Journal
      transmission electron spectroscopy does not have atomic resolution - the title is misleading. The best a TEM can manage is diffraction patterns from ordered regions.
      • 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.
    • 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.

    • by SB9876 (723368)

      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? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pub_tib (1308461) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @05:24AM (#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? (Score:4, Informative)

      by jamesh (87723) on Saturday November 22, 2008 @06:48AM (#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: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

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

    • 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.
    • by DanielLC (1346013)

      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 sa

  • old news (Score:1, Interesting)

    by noshellswill (598066)
    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!
  • Summary:
    - there's no sound
    - looks like a bunch of vibrating strings.

  • ..and order is born from chaos.

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. -- Bertrand Russell, "Skeptical Essays", 1928

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