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« Distant Sunset on Mars | Main | Yawn: Yet Another Successful Test of an ABM »
June 06, 2008

Claim: Levitation Engineered Via Anti-Gravity Anti-Some-Force-I-Never-Heard-of-Before


An Asian Sorceress calls upon the Spirits of the East Wind
to charge a Throwing Disc with inscrutable magical power.

I have only one question: Can they make a bunch of those things in Extra Large Size and stick them in the undercarriage of a car?

[A] University of St Andrews team has created an 'incredible levitation effects’ by engineering the force of nature which normally causes objects to stick together.

Professor Ulf Leonhardt and Dr Thomas Philbin, from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, have worked out a way of reversing this pheneomenon, known as the Casimir force, so that it repels instead of attracts.

Their discovery could ultimately lead to frictionless micro-machines with moving parts that levitate But they say that, in principle at least, the same effect could be used to levitate bigger objects too, even a person.

The Casimir force is a consequence of quantum mechanics, the theory that describes the world of atoms and subatomic particles that is not only the most successful theory of physics but also the most baffling.

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 and is one reason atoms stick together, also explaining a “dry glue” effect that enables a gecko to walk across a ceiling.

Now, using a special lens of a kind that has already been built, Prof Ulf Leonhardt and Dr Thomas Philbin report in the New Journal of Physics they can engineer the Casimir force to repel, rather than attact.

Because the Casimir force causes problems for nanotechnologists, who are trying to build electrical circuits and tiny mechanical devices on silicon chips, among other things, the team believes the feat could initially be used to stop tiny objects from sticking to each other.

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 - for example tiny mechanical devices which triggers a car airbag to inflate or those which power tiny 'lab on chip’ devices used for drugs testing or chemical analysis.

He said cars! He said cars!

The article details important but boring uses for the tech, mostly having to do with keeping nano-machines and structures from clinging together.

Oh -- they're also working on invisibility, just to show off.

Question:

Would you rather have a levitation belt or a flyin' car?

I still have to go with the car.

Also swiped from Excitable Boy, who's doing some science blogging in between his regularly scheduled conniption-fits/ecstatic prophecies. He introduces the article by referencing Barack Obama -- "Levitation: Yes we can!" -- which just goes to show he really does think Obama is Jesus.

Now, you may say "No, that's self-parody," but we all know Andrew Sullivan does not have a sense of humor, especially as regards himself.


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posted by Ace at 02:26 PM

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