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posted by martyb on Tuesday February 13, @09:41AM   Printer-friendly
from the brilliant! dept.

Picture of a Single Atom Wins Science Photo Contest

A remarkable photo of a single atom trapped by electric fields has just been awarded the top prize in a well-known science photography competition. The photo is titled "Single Atom in an Ion Trap" and was shot by David Nadlinger of the University of Oxford.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in the UK today announced the winning photos of its national science photography competition. Nadlinger's grand prize photo shows an atom as a speck of light between two metal electrodes placed about 2mm (0.078in) apart.

From EPSRC:

When illuminated by a laser of the right blue-violet colour the atom absorbs and re-emits light particles sufficiently quickly for an ordinary camera to capture it in a long exposure photograph. The winning picture was taken through a window of the ultra-high vacuum chamber that houses the ion trap.


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 13, @11:27AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 13, @11:27AM (#637065)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvUL28Skt6E [youtube.com]

    but, i can not troll this kind of content, so i keep myself brief...
    let my silence speak, so to say...
    also, first post

    -zug

  • (Score: 4, Funny) by c0lo on Tuesday February 13, @11:55AM (12 children)

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 13, @11:55AM (#637069)

    It's blurred!!! One can't even see the electrons moving around.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by shrewdsheep on Tuesday February 13, @12:20PM (1 child)

      by shrewdsheep (5215) on Tuesday February 13, @12:20PM (#637071)

      Individual electrons were yesterday, today it's a cloud of electrons. Do you honestly belief electrons still live in the stone age?

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 13, @01:16PM (8 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 13, @01:16PM (#637089)

      It would be nice if they are going to brag about something like this if they can actually provide a resolution that shows said dot with sufficient detail to prove that you are seeing the atom and not simply light triggered/reflected by the existence of the atom at that point in space.

      Very anticlimatic photo.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 13, @01:21PM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 13, @01:21PM (#637092)

        As someone said in the comments on the article, all we ever see is the light that's reflected.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by c0lo on Tuesday February 13, @01:31PM (1 child)

          by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 13, @01:31PM (#637095)

          all we ever see is the light that's reflected fullstop.

          FTFY - you see the photons originated from the Sun or from a lightbulb without a mirror, don't you? (just don't look with your remaining eye in a laser)

          Some say that hallucinogenics may cause one to see sounds, so the above may need further correction under such circumstances.

          • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Tuesday February 13, @03:14PM

            by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Tuesday February 13, @03:14PM (#637128) Homepage
            Synaesthesia definitely exists. I've never seen sounds, but I have heard light patterns (that I was creating myself with the aid of a 50 Hz polychromatic source and 2 near-periodic light filters. (OK, a TV showing snooker, and my 2 hands. Oh, and some rather spacey cookies.)
            --
            I was worried about my command. I was the scientist of the Holy Ghost.
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Tuesday February 13, @01:33PM (4 children)

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 13, @01:33PM (#637096)

        the atom

        About that "the" how do they know its singular?

        There are some trap designs where you can apply a force adjust a field and see how things move but this thing isn't that kind of trap, is it? So ... run the experiment 500x at a particle density where you should only trap an atom 50% of the time, and you trap something 250x so it "must" be one atom? Or are they playing some game where its so tight gradient that only one atom can realistically fit? I found one article from the 90s where I only have access to the abstract but apparently the exact peaks of the fluorescence spectra depends both theoretically and practically on the number of atoms in the trap, at least for very small numbers of atoms in the trap, which was interesting and maybe how these guys did it.

        • (Score: 5, Interesting) by VLM on Tuesday February 13, @01:37PM (3 children)

          by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 13, @01:37PM (#637097)

          $@^ it, about five seconds after I click submit, I figured it out. Absolute brightness. Likely 3x atoms would result in 3x photons and astronomers are pretty good at telling 3dB brightness apart. So if the dude's photo was analyzed to contain 2x predicted photons that would imply two atoms.

          Still, pretty cool. He must trust the constant illumination of whatever was exciting that one atom because if that fluctuated it would look like a # of atoms signal.

          • (Score: 2) by VLM on Tuesday February 13, @01:39PM (1 child)

            by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 13, @01:39PM (#637098)

            3x photons and astronomers are pretty good at telling 3dB brightness apart.

            Sheeeeeeeit, posting without caffeine today was brave but stupid

            • (Score: 2) by insanumingenium on Tuesday February 13, @06:45PM

              by insanumingenium (4824) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 13, @06:45PM (#637221)

              And here I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt that perhaps you were saying that a second atom would be 3dB more. I would say we could all use 3+dB more caffeine.

          • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Tuesday February 13, @04:09PM

            by Grishnakh (2831) on Tuesday February 13, @04:09PM (#637172)

            $@^ it, about five seconds after I click submit, I figured it out.

            Yep, this is precisely why I keep clamoring for an "edit" function on this site, even if it's only available for 60 seconds after you post.

    • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Tuesday February 13, @03:19PM

      by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Tuesday February 13, @03:19PM (#637134) Homepage
      What you're seeing is the quantum superposition of a hundred such photos. Blink faster.
      --
      I was worried about my command. I was the scientist of the Holy Ghost.
  • (Score: 2) by Kromagv0 on Tuesday February 13, @01:29PM (2 children)

    by Kromagv0 (1825) on Tuesday February 13, @01:29PM (#637094) Homepage

    As someone who is a fairly avid amateur photographer I am wondering how that image was captured as the article is fairly light on details. If I had to guess it probably is either a HDR image with a regular exposure for most of the scene and then an exposure for the atom, or maybe a flash was used to expose for the equipment with the rest of the long exposure to get the atom. Either way seems like it would work but I would love to find out more.

    --
    T-Shirts and bumper stickers [zazzle.com] to offend someone
    • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Tuesday February 13, @03:19PM (1 child)

      by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Tuesday February 13, @03:19PM (#637133) Homepage
      Article mentions 2 gelled flashes. No super-fancy kit at all - now he should bring a pro in to take something worth having as a poster in the institute's foyer.
      --
      I was worried about my command. I was the scientist of the Holy Ghost.
      • (Score: 2) by Kromagv0 on Tuesday February 13, @04:25PM

        by Kromagv0 (1825) on Tuesday February 13, @04:25PM (#637186) Homepage

        I saw that too but it still doesn't explain if it was a single long exposure or a regular exposure with the flashes combined with a long exposure for the atom. The gelled flashes look to be a blue one and a orange one, it makes for some nice illumination of the 2 sides of the trap.

        --
        T-Shirts and bumper stickers [zazzle.com] to offend someone
  • (Score: 2) by DrkShadow on Tuesday February 13, @03:38PM (1 child)

    by DrkShadow (1404) on Tuesday February 13, @03:38PM (#637143)

    How hot has that atom got to be, a _single_ atom emitting enough light to be picked up by a consumer(-ish) camera?!

    What intensity of laser must they be hitting it with, what are the results of that, how do they keep it still with that much input?

    The mind boggles.

    • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Tuesday February 13, @09:39PM

      by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Tuesday February 13, @09:39PM (#637273)

      if the laser is tuned to the atom it really doesn't take much to cause an atom to fluoresce. Its just a matter of causing the atom's electrons to jump to higher states.

      Think about how much power a laser pointer uses, or a UV flash light that can cause an entire black light poster, and lots of other stuff, to glow. It is not that much.

      --
      "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 13, @07:06PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 13, @07:06PM (#637228)

    The only other time I saw this was when prof. Hubert Farnsworth had one.

  • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Tuesday February 13, @09:53PM

    by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Tuesday February 13, @09:53PM (#637285)

    I remember seeing this same thing, a single glowing atom photographed by its own light, years ago on a science documentary.

    Sadly I don't remember the name of the documentary I was watching, I think it was something from the BBC. I do remember that the setup was even simpler than the one shown in this article. IIRCC they used tuned radio waves, a needle for an antenna , and a vacuum chamber.

    They created a very rarefied atmosphere in the chamber and waited for an atom to just float through the eye of the needle where the radio waves cause the atom to glow. Then a a high rez camera took a picture.

    --
    "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
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