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The Sciences

Look at This: Atom Casts a Tiny Shadow

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0705AtomShadow.jpg

In the right light, everything casts a shadow---even an atom. A large object creates a shadow by physically blocking the light flying past it, and even a miniscule atom or ion can prevent photons with specific wavelengths from reaching their destinations. Australian researchers from Griffith University captured a relatively large ytterbium atom in an ion trap

, and then hit it with light of a wavelength the ytterbium could absorb. When the light reached the detector

, the missing photons that the atom had gobbled up left this negative space: the shadow of a single atom

, less than a millionth of a meter in length. [via Gizmodo

] Image courtesy of Kielpinski group, Griffith University / Nature Communications

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