And the Oscar for "Best Short Film of a Sub-Atomic Particle" goes to…

Edward Willett @ 22-02-2008

Single frame from electron moviethis video of a single electron’s motion.

The movie, made at Lund University, Sweden, shows how an electron rides on a light wave after just having been pulled away from an atom. This is the first time an electron has ever been filmed. (Via EurekAlert.)

How do you film something that circles the nucleus of an atom once every 150 attoseconds? And how long is an attosecond, anyway?

To answer the second question first, an attosecond is 10 to the -18 of a second, or, as Johan Mauritsson, an assistant professor in atomic physics at the University, puts it, “an attosecond is related to a second as a second is related to the age of the universe.”

By using attosecond pulses created from intense laser light using recently developed technology, the researchers were able to guide the motion of an electron and capture a collision between it and an atom on film.

As you might guess, the encounter has been slowed down enormously so our slow-poke eyes and brains can register it.

OK, so it probably won’t win an Oscar at this Sunday’s Academy Awards, but it’s still pretty darn cool.

You can read the original scientific paper from Physical Review Letters here, and additional discussion of the achievement here.

(Image: Lund University.)

[tags]physics, particles, lasers, atoms[/tags]

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One Response to “And the Oscar for "Best Short Film of a Sub-Atomic Particle" goes to…”

  1. andy cochrane says:

    that is… breathtaking in terms of technical achievement. thank you for bringing this to our attention edward- i did not ever think something like this would be captured, i’ve spent my life being told that it is unobservable in any form 🙂