Data and data storage are in a never-ending arms race. The size and cost of memory shrinks while video and photo resolutions go up, and file sizes balloon. The end result is you just never seem to have enough room on your phone or laptop for all your stuff. But there’s a limit to how small magnetic storage can get, and scientists are inching towards it.
The basic building block of data is a bit, represented by either a 1 or a 0. The basic building block of ordinary matter is an atom. So scientists have been trying to store a bit using a single atom. It actually makes sense when you think about it.
Magnets have a north and south pole, so depending on which way they’re oriented they can represent a one or a zero. Usually magnetic fields are only noticeable when the magnetic fields of whole clusters of atoms are aligned the same way, but zoom in closer and you’ll see the electrons of atoms basically act as tiny magnets in and of themselves, so theoretically a single atom could be enough to represent a bit.