By Evan Ackerman
On the face of it, the picture above is totally unremarkable, until you realize that for the first time ever, you’re looking at the movement of a single electron. You know, electrons? Those invisible (until now) little particles that make electricity (and therefore, OhGizmo and all that other technology you know and love and are hopelessly addicted to) possible? In fact, you’ve probably got something like 23,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 electrons whizzing around in you right now. And those little dots in that picture up there show one of them movin’ around. More info, and a video, after the jump.
Now, try and stick with me here while I explain how this works… If you’ve got an electron moving around in a liquid, it pushes all of the atoms around it away a little bit, creating a teeny bubble of space. Most of the time, this bubble gets crushed by the surface tension of the liquid around it. Scientists at Brown University looked at electrons moving though supercooled liquid helium, which has very little surface tension, keeping the bubble alive. Then, they blasted the fluid with sound waves, which alternately increased and decreased the pressure of the fluid, allowing some of the electron bubbles to expand to about the size of a speck of dust, which were made visible by combining a strobe light with a home video camera on “super night mode.”
My advice is to just think about what you’re looking at, and then sit back and let it blow your mind.