Science: Watching the Dance of the Atoms

Nobels for three Americans, a Japanese and a Swede

To the naked eye, inanimate objects like a block of stone or a piece of metal appear totally lifeless. But scientists see a veritable cauldron of activity in the most passive-looking object. Its atoms and molecules are in constant motion, vibrating furiously, bumping into neighbors, reeling in every direction. Though imperceptible to human senses, this chaotic ballet is critically important. Not only does it determine the very nature of observed matter (what makes a stone a stone, for example), it controls what will happen when...

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