Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences

73. First Look at an Atom's Shadow

Smallest shadow ever captured.

By Andrew GrantJanuary 28, 2013 7:00 PM
Kielpinski Group / Griffith University


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Nearly 2,500 years ago, the Greek philosopher Democritus theorized the existence of atoms by imagining what happens if you break a material into its smallest possible units. Last year physicist Dave Kielpinski of Australia’s Griffith University had a similar thought about shadows.

“We’re used to objects casting shadows, but they’re made up of atoms,” he says. “I wondered what the shadow would look like if you kept peeling back atoms until you had just one.” So he isolated a single ytterbium atom in a vacuum chamber, shined a laser at it, and focused in on the resulting 450-nanometer gap of darkness that landed on his digital image sensor. In July he released the image above: the first-ever view of an atomic shadow.

    3 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In