Now a group from St Andrews University has made history by making a tiny sphere rotate 500,000 times faster than a domestic washing machine.
They hope the creation of the world's fastest-spinning man-made object will shed light on what happens for larger objects containing one-million-million atoms or more. Previous experiments have been confined to the use of atoms or molecules.
The team were able to levitate and spin a microscopic sphere, using laser light in a vacuum, briefly up to 600 million RPM before it broke apart.
Dr Yoshihiki Arita, of the School of Physics and Astronomy, said: "This is an exciting, thought-provoking experiment that pushes the boundary of our understanding of rotating bodies."
His colleague on the St Andrews team, Professor Kishan Dholakia, said: "It's always good to hold a world record - even if it's only for a while."
Their work is published today in the journal Nature Communications.