Take the screen that has this text on, magnify it a hundred million times, and you’ll start seeing it. You leave the familiar world around us, from trees, homes, newspapers and people, and you enter the world of corn, one of the most important building blocks of everything around us. The atom is the backbone of nuclear energy and the rocky star of the periodic table of elements, a list of all known substances affectionately placed by chemists.
And just as we can now see crystal clear images of the neighboring planet Mars, so we also get a better view of the visual splendor of the nanoscale world that lies beneath each day.
They write that physicists recently set a new record In the trade magazine Science. They captured the largest image of atoms ever captured. In fact, the image is so sharp that it shows us the eternal dance of the nanoscale world, vibrations of atomic heat that only stop when the atoms reach an absolute temperature of zero. In the image, those vibrations can be seen as fog around the bright atomic points.
Meanwhile, the stunning orange-red atomic points visually remind us of that other famous orange spot of science: the image that astronomers took in 2019 of a supermassive black hole 500 trillion kilometers from Earth. Put them next to each other and the result is a kind of picture rhyme.
Or, as our unofficial spokesperson for national physics, Robert Decgraff, wrote it on Twitter: “ Note that the amplification of these atoms – 1010 At a height of 1 meter – comparable to that of a black hole M87. In other words, be it telescopes or microscopes, the best equipment available in science almost feels powerful.
This begs the question of why did that image of a black hole appear on the front pages around the world, when this atomic image went almost unnoticed when it was published last week? Is it a sign that a well-equipped PR machine in astrophysics is better organized than that in geophysics? Or maybe it was simply because we “saw” atoms before, when no human had previously seen the features of a black hole?
Whatever it is, both types of orange spots are sure to be equally attractive. They both transport us into an invisible world that we can now – finally – see with our own eyes. And this remains a magical thing, even with all our theoretical knowledge.