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Q: What are “actual pictures” of atoms actually pictures of?
Physicist: Actual pictures of atoms aren’t actually pictures at all. You could try using light with a shorter wavelength, but there are issues with that as well. Using light to image atoms is like trying to get a good look at a bird’s nest by bouncing cannonballs off it. Even worse, it’s not really a picture of actual individual atoms, it’s information about a repeating structure of atoms that happens to take the form of an image. The STM “sees” atoms using this needle in the same way you can “see” the bottom of a muddy river with a pokin’ stick.
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