The Big, The Small/Some Assembly Required; Extreme Engineering; Scientific American Presents; by Nemecek; 4 Page(s)
Everything around us-from concrete blocks to computer chips-is made of atoms. They are nature's Tinkertoy set, but it can take a Herculean effort for humans to rearrange individual, all but weightless, atoms. Consider how minuscule they are: some two trillion would fit in this letter A. But researchers have now developed tools that enable them to see, grasp and move these tiny particles.
The technology dates back to the early 1980s, when two European physicists, Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer, working at the IBM Research Laboratories in Zurich, built the first instrument that could display images of atoms: the scanning tunneling microscope, or STM.