quote:I told this story once and was answered : "no he didn't see the atom, he just saw the light bouncing of it"
I don't know the specifics of the experiment, but I find it very unlikely that anyone can see light bouncing off of one atom. I would guess that there was an energetic reaction that resulted in the sudden release of numerous photons when the laser light struck the ion. Perhaps the ion was captured in a crystal lattice, or some other support structure?
What you seem to be proposing is that you can see the individual cells that make up my body by the light bouncing off of them. Can you see cells with the naked eye? Are you a human microscope?
Getting back to the topic, you must have a type of faith in all reactions or instrumentation found in science, even electron microscopes. Instruments are based on applied theory which has been rigorously tested, but nonetheless theory. How do we know that an electron microscope is giving us a reliable image? Faith in methodology and science. We can never see such small objects ourselves with our naked eyes. In fact, the numerous examples of optical illusions refutes the total reliability of human sight at its most basic levels. Even seeing something with your naked eye does not indicate objective reality.