Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Let's Levitate - Scientists Say It's Possible

We all want to levitate, don't we? It's akin to the urge to fly like Superman or swim underwater like a mermaid. What if we actually could? It's the favorite parlor trick of magicians and illusionists like David Blaine and Criss Angel. Can you imagine the freedom of floating in mid-air.? Not to mention the medical benefits to bedridden, chronically ill patients, no more constant turning to prevent bedsores.

It seems that quantum physicists have found a way, at least on the micro and nano-level. But now that levitation is a fact in the world of tiny objects, macro-levitation can't be far behind.
Professor Ulf Leonhardt and Dr Thomas Philbin, from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, have worked out a way of reversing a phenomenon known as the Casimir force. Casimir force normally causes friction between nano and micro objects, causing them to stick together. This is one of the reasons why all of the atoms that make up a human being stay connected and geckos can walk on walls and ceilings using something called "the dry glue effect".

The force is due to neither electrical charge or gravity, for example, but the fluctuations in all-pervasive energy fields in the intervening empty space between the objects. The physicists have found a way to manipulate this force so that it repels instead of attracts. Their discovery could ultimately lead to frictionless micro-machines with moving parts that levitate and the same theories could eventually be applied to human levitation.

This force causes problems for the nanotechnologists who build the electrical circuits and tiny mechanical devices found on silicon chips. The team believes the reversal of the Casimir force could initially be used to stop these tiny objects from sticking together.

Prof Leonhardt explained, “The Casimir force is the ultimate cause of friction in the nano-world, in particular in some microelectromechanical systems.

Such systems already play an important role in the tiny mechanical devices which trigger a car airbag to inflate or those which power tiny 'lab on chip’ devices used for drugs testing or chemical analysis.

Even more incredible, Prof Leonhardt leads one of four teams - three of them in Britain - to have put forward a theory in a peer-reviewed journal to achieve invisibility by making light waves flow around an object - just as a river flows undisturbed around a smooth rock.

For now I'll be grateful that because of the professor's research the air bag in my car will operate properly and feel secure in the knowledge that more fantastic advances are on the way.

Someday, maybe my grandchildren will levitate instead of sitting in desk at school and engage their invisibility cloaks to win a game of hide and seek.

What a miraculous and intelligent world we live in!


Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting article for me since I have been a college chemistry professor for the last 36 years. Almost sounds like magic, but it just goes to show that we still have a lot of opportunities for learning and discovering new things. Isn't science wonderful.

Lisa McGlaun said...

I wish you'd left your name. My father in law has been a college chemistry professor for many years...anon = father in law...hum, I wonder..:)

Thanks for you comment. If you look under Google science news you will find the article. Hopefully, it is true science, which means that you're right, science is beginning to look alot like magic, but hasn't it always when something new is discovered.

And yes, science is wonderful!

Todd McGlaun said...

Science is indeed wonderful. It is a terrible shame that our politicians in Washington and locally are so scientifically illiterate. For each one of these discoveries we make, I wonder how many have been missed because the young genius who might have discovered them was unable to take decent science classes in our countries educational system, that either doesn't teach science at all or tries to pass off witch-doctorish idiocy like creationism as science. How many people will lose fights with possibly curable diseases if only we could engage in real science instead of having our ridiculously uneducated president veto stem cell research that could provide those possible cures. All in the name of that same witch-doctorism that claims its better to let a living, breathing, walking, talking person die in order to morally toss a microscopic bundle of cells in the garbage rather than use them scientifically to improve life for those who are suffering. At some point we must wake up and address the realities of the world we live in. Science is a tool that allows us to do that. If you have children, demand that their schools teach science every year they are in school instead of every so often. And demand that it be real science. There is a time for spirituality, mysticism, and mythology, certainly. But that time should not be in the science class.

Todd McGlaun said...

Sorry, should have proofread my comment better. Meant to say "How many people will lose fights with possibly curable diseases because we can not engage in real science that could provide those possible cures instead of having our ridiculously uneducated president veto stem cell research."

Lisa McGlaun said...


You know I agree wholeheartedly.

Lynda Lehmann said...

Super interesting stuff, Lisa. Thanks for sharing this. I love the mysterious way the universe holds together, while in flux!

Lisa McGlaun said...

My husband said something interesting last night, "What if they find a way to disrupt the Casimir force of a human body? Poof, evaporation."

That's a little eerie, don't you think?

Thanks for commenting.

Bob Johnson said...

Very interesting and well written post, thanks.

Lisa McGlaun said...

Thanks Bob. I know without a doubt you are into science so I appreciate your comment.

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