Less Is More: Scientists Capture Stunning Photograph Of An Atom

Scientists Capture Stunning Photograph Of An Atom

I’ve always been jealous of Instagrammers, as I see on a daily basis these beautiful shots of romantic cities, beautiful beaches and exquisite meals. I’ve read all the books and self-help articles but nothing improves my mastery of the art photography; it’s always blurred or out of focus or poorly framed.


So when a physicist from the University of Oxford recently photographed an atom perfectly, it made me question why I bother. Especially given that a human being is composed of about seven billion billion billion atoms, give or take.

David Nadlinger is the physicist from the University of Oxford who achieved this epic feat, capturing the above image using his IPhone; just kidding. He used specialist equipment owned by the university to generate the shot, which is in great detail when zoomed and enhanced.

If you’re not an expert at atom-spotting, you’ll probably not recognize that this is a positively charged strontium atom illuminated by a blue-violet laser. Photons are emitted from the atom when the laser is pointed at it, giving the physicist a prolonged period in which to capture the image. Nadlinger was able to capture it on a long-exposure snap, which was taken through the window of an ultra-high vacuum chamber, cooled to keep the atom still and ready for its close up.

“The idea of being able to see a single atom with the naked eye had struck me as a wonderfully direct and visceral bridge between the minuscule quantum world and our macroscopic reality. A back-of-the-envelope calculation showed the numbers to be on my side, and when I set off to the lab with camera and tripods one quiet Sunday afternoon, I was rewarded with this particular picture of a small, pale blue dot.”

The shot, which he called ‘Single Atom in an Ion Trap’ won the UK Engineering and Physical Science Research Council photo competition.

The competition’s five categories were: Eureka & Discovery, Equipment & Facilities, People & Skills, Innovation, and Weird & Wonderful.  Other winning images were:

In a kitchen far far away…

The fluid instability patterns on top of a spherical soap bubble in a kitchen sink. The two sides of the image show some of the different physical phenomena studied in the research into how foams form and behave in lubricants and products like drinks.

Spiderman on George IV Bridge: EEG testing with an older volunteer on a busy Edinburgh street

A volunteer wearing an Electroencephalography (EEG) headset that records brain activity as he walks along George IV Bridge Edinburgh. Researchers used EEG to measure the neural responses of older people to different outdoor urban environments, from busy roads to a quiet park.

Microbubble for drug delivery

A micron-sized bubble coated with nano-sized liposomes containing a drug. Microbubbles are being explored for therapeutic applications and improve the delivery of drugs to diseased targets such as tumours.

Nature’s Nanosized Net for Capturing Colour

The micrometre-scale structures that cover a butterfly’s wing that trap the Sun’s rays and give rise to an array of dazzling colours.

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SpaceX Success: Falcon Heavy Launches Without Problems

Falcon Heavy Launched. Boosters Landed. Bowie playing Starman. Tesla Roadster begins its billion year journey.

For those who’ve followed the meteoric rise of SpaceX, from the experiments of an intrepid billionaire to a reliable and groundbreaking company that launches rockets into space on a regular basis, the 6th of February 2017 is a date to remember. Elon Musk and SpaceX successfully launched its much heralded rocket, the Falcon Heavy, into space and on its journey around the sun. Whilst slightly delayed, the mission was a complete success and absolutely everything that could go right went right from start to finish.

For up to date analysis, check out SpaceX Twitter feed for all the info:

What is the Falcon Heavy?

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The Falcon Heavy is one of the most powerful rockets ever launched. Only the Saturn V which took man to the Moon could take more into space. The space shuttle had more thrust at launch than the Falcon Heavy, but had a lower payload capacity.

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The design is based on the tried and tested Falcon 9 rockets that SpaceX have been launching and reusing, utilizing 2 of the normal rockets strapped to a strengthened core. The boosters were designed to release when the rocket made Low Earth Orbit, which they successfully did. Musk was eager to point out before the launch that any number of things could have gone wrong and we should not pin our hopes on a successful mission. We don’t often hear this, but Musk underestimated himself.

Musk described the dangers of the launch beforehand:

“Going through the sound barrier, you get supersonic shockwaves. You could have some shockwave impingement, or where two shockwaves interact and amplify the effect, that could cause a failure as it goes transonic. Then around Max-Q, which is maximum dynamic air pressure — that is when the force on the rocket is the greatest — and that’s possibly where it could fail as well. We’re worried about ice potentially falling off the upper stage onto the nose cones of the side boosters.”

“That would be like a cannon ball coming through the nose cone. And then the separation system has not been tested in flight. We have tested everything that we could think of for the separation of those side boosters on the ground, but this is the first time it has to operate in flight.”

Elon Musk, being an eccentric billionaire, wasn’t content to launch a payload into space on a groundbreaking new rocket. Musk decided that the payload would be his first ever Tesla, complete with mannequin passenger in a spacesuit, with a plaque engraved with all his employees names and oh yes, David Bowie’s Starman playing on repeat. Musk’s Tesla Roadster will be the first car that was built to be driven on Earth to be launched into space. It will orbit the sun and is expected to stay in space for millions of years, possibly billions.

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What does it mean for the future of space travel?

NASA are now going to be scratching their heads and wondering whether they should keep going with their own program, the SLS. The SLS, or Space Launch System, was supposed to be the next rocket system designed to take man to the Moon, Mars and beyond. But, the SLS launches will be in excess of a billion dollars a launch, whilst Elon’s Falcon Heavy costs only 90 million, and is now flight proven.

Time will tell what the top dogs at NASA and in the government decide, but for now, Elon Musk can celebrate another huge success in his mission to make humanity a multiplanetary species.

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New Spider Species Found In Czech Republic

Arachnophobes beware; a new species of spider has been discovered in the Czech Republic.


Located in the sparse oak forests in the warmer regions of South Moravia and Eastern Bohemia, the šestiočky vidlozubé, which translates as the six-eyed tooth-tooth, was discovered and confirmed by Milan Řezáč. Its Latin name is Dysdera cechica.


Despite the news of the discovery, the discoverer admitted that the spider is in severe danger as the policies regarding logging and conservation activities are threatening its survival. The spider is thought to have an interesting tactic for hunting beetles and armored insects, where it grips and pierces the soft underbelly.

Female spiders often consume the male spider after reproduction (nature is a wonderful place) but this behavior has not yet been seen. The spider has six-eyed relatives across rural regions in Europe, including northern Italy, southern France and northeastern Spain.

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You shouldn’t find any lurking under your bed if you are tucked up in bed in Prague, so you have no need to panic just yet. In any case, spiders are the good guys, as they eat the smaller bugs that we hate so much!

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