Quantum Levitation: The Coolest Science You'll See Today

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Quantum Levitation: The Coolest Science You'll See Today

The video you are about to see contains high-level physics, quantum superconductors and presumably wizards. You have been warned.

The clip, which has been making its way around the 'net since its debut this weekend, was taken at the 2011 ASTC conference, a gathering of sciencefolk in Baltimore, Maryland designed to demonstrate "how science centers and museums are putting new ideas to practical use to serve their communities."

This vignette is a demonstration by Israel's Tel Aviv University of a phenomenon called "quantum levitation." Though the video itself fails to explain the physics behind the disk's baffling ability to maintain orientation despite non-trivial factors like gravity and the rampant disbelief of onlookers, the University put together a website to explain things.

If I'm understanding this correctly, the disk (which is a sapphire wafer coated with an ultrathin layer of yttrium barium copper oxide) is cooled to below negative 185 degrees Celsius. At that temperature the material becomes superconductive (read: it is able to conduct electricity with no energy loss).

From here on out things get a bit complicated, so I'll just quote the site's surprisingly excellent explanation:

Superconductivity and magnetic field do not like each other. When possible, the superconductor will expel all the magnetic field from inside. This is the Meissner effect. In our case, since the superconductor is extremely thin, the magnetic field DOES penetrates. However, it does that in discrete quantities (this is quantum physics after all! ) called flux tubes.

Inside each magnetic flux tube superconductivity is locally destroyed. The superconductor will try to keep the magnetic tubes pinned in weak areas (e.g. grain boundaries). Any spatial movement of the superconductor will cause the flux tubes to move. In order to prevent that the superconductor remains "trapped" in midair.

Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Though at the time he was referring to theoretical technology found in his stories (and using this explanation as a reason why he had no need to explain the inner workings of his fantastical creations) it seems tailor-made for this situation.

Even with the physics explained to me I'm tempted to throw holy water at my screen. Either that or start a cult to worship that disk. "Ad majorem orbis gloriam," the chants will say, and then we'll hear a reading from the Book Of Disk, specifically, Disk's First Letter to the Corinthians.

"When I was a disk, I spoke as a disk, I felt as a disk, I thought as a disk," and so on and so on until we get bored and find another inanimate object to worship.

Permalink

... Fucking magnets. How do they work!?

Fucking quantum mechanics. How does it work!?

That's cool. It also answers some questions I've always had about superconductance and magnetism

This whole thread is going to be people rehashing that tired Insane Clown Posse meme, isn't it?

Internet, I hate you so much.

spartan231490:
That's cool. It also answers some questions I've always had about superconductance and magnetism

Good reply. Thank you for not being a cliché.

Fucking magne-Awww.

OT: I have only question. Where is my hover-car?

EDIT: Wait, you said superconductors can conduct electricity without losing energy?

Wouldn't that a source of unlimited energy then?

EDIT 2: REVENGE OF THE EDIT: Never mind.

wow - this is extraordinary.

As Jack O'Neill would say "Magnets!".

Hmmm... repulsorlift technology here we come?

My question: If the thing is negative 185 Celsius how does he avoid burning his fingers when he touches it?

Someone call Bill Nigh quick!

Frozen Donkey Wheel2:
Fucking magne-Awww.

OT: I have only question. Where is my hover-car?

EDIT: Wait, you said superconductors can conduct electricity without losing energy?

Wouldn't that a source of unlimited energy then?

No. You still need to get the electricity from somewhere first, which requires energy. It would, however, allow us to transfer electricity with no power loss. The only reason we don't do this is that superconductors have this annoying tendency of needing to be supercooled to work.


Sorry I had to

OT: That is brilliant, +10 internets to them. Could it have a use?

Wow, that is awesome! Maybe one day this type of tech will be able to really help this planet...or be used for some crazy ass destructive weapon by our government (the most likely outcome).

Twilight_guy:
My question: If the thing is negative 185 Celsius how does he avoid burning his fingers when he touches it?

I was thinking that aswell, that should be so cold he gets burned.

OT:....I want this science fully invested in. Put those rails all over the globe and lets us fly around in tilted vehicles...xD

Ok, so, where's my yttrium-barium-copper-oxide-coated flying car?

Frozen Donkey Wheel2:
EDIT: Wait, you said superconductors can conduct electricity without losing energy?

Wouldn't that a source of unlimited energy then?

No, it only transfers the energy from one place to another without loss. Existing energy extraction techniques have to be used to get the energy in first place.

Twilight_guy:
My question: If the thing is negative 185 Celsius how does he avoid burning his fingers when he touches it?

That's where the wizards come into play.

Well, I can safely say, that my mind has actually been blown. That's the full truth as well.

Sooooo...

Hovercars, anyone?

So, to recap, we've got:

Quark-gluon plasma: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/7.286881-Large-Hadron-Collider-Creates-Incredibly-Dense-Primordial-Matter

Commercial Space Travel: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/18.318341-Did-you-know-space-travel-is-happening

Holding anti-matter for 16 minutes: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/7.289614-CERN-Scientists-Capture-Antimatter-For-Record-16-Minutes

And now quantum floaty magic. Not to mention computers in our pockets that are voice controlled like in star trek. It's the future, it's coming, be ready. Otherwise you'll miss it. Come on, you guys can't be jaded enough to look at this without any emotion. It's friggin floating! For fucks sake, this is UFO technology.

cool my dream of a back to the future hover board is getting closer

YBa2Cu3O7 is a pretty interesting material, and superconductors in general. Cool application of it in that video. Should be interesting to see what type of practical applications they will be used for when we find some superconductors that work at room temperature.

That is soo fucking cool! (see what I did thar?)
I'm most interested with how friction works in this system, cuz this could prove extremely useful to me.

Well the guy is clearly a wizard because the only way for it to move around like that and for him not to get hurt is magic.

That's actually really cool, I was in awe the entire time.

Well done scientists of Tel'aviv! You've got superconducting flying magnets; now get to work on my stargate.

Twilight_guy:
My question: If the thing is negative 185 Celsius how does he avoid burning his fingers when he touches it?

i noticed it the second time, if you look closely it is covered by a thin plastic, kind of like what frozen pizza's are covered in, so i believe that is what is preventing him from burning like hell.

OT: saw this video this morning from a friend, good to see it founds its way on here, it is awesome and everytime i watch it i can't help but have a huge geeky smile on my face.

if only they did presentations like these in my area..*sigh*

gmaverick019:

Twilight_guy:
My question: If the thing is negative 185 Celsius how does he avoid burning his fingers when he touches it?

i noticed it the second time, if you look closely it is covered by a thin plastic, kind of like what frozen pizza's are covered in, so i believe that is what is preventing him from burning like hell.

OT: saw this video this morning from a friend, good to see it founds its way on here, it is awesome and everytime i watch it i can't help but have a huge geeky smile on my face.

if only they did presentations like these in my area..*sigh*

Fine, but how do they KEEP it at minus 185? Just exposing that thing to room-temperature like they are should heat it up from minus 185 pretty quickly.
Do they have a vat of something that cold near-by, and dip it every now and then? Seems like a hazard.

razerdoh:
Fucking quantum mechanics. How does it work!?

dragongit:
... Fucking magnets. How do they work!?

Fucking memes, how do they work?

Well the idea of supercnducting magnets has always been a pretty mind-boggling one, as an engineering student (and terible speller) the idea of resistance being Zero is both a mind and equation buster but the fact that orientation can be maintained is pretty staggering.

Redingold:

Frozen Donkey Wheel2:
?

.

Well i will attempt to explain in my own words;

Indeed the critical temperature (i.e. the superconductance point, i.e. where the magic happens) tends to over somewhere between freaking cold and absolute zero (The LHC has super conductirs cooled by liquid helium, you heard me helium! Take that liquid Hydrogen!) meaning high consts involved with maintaining superconductace.

**WARNING HEAVY SCIENCE***

How it all works

This is becuase the atoms in a conductor vibrate at higher temperatures impeding the flow of elericity though them (imagine trying to drive you car in a see of fast moving trafic going in all directions and how much ou would collide with them sending out energy) and as they conduct they also produce more 'vibration' and more heat BUT if you are able to make the conductor cool enough the movement of atoms slow and the current can move more freely (imagine all the trffic parks by the side of the road and nothing gets in your way) and the conductor offers NO (or effectively no) resistance. Imagine the energy is water, you stlll have to put the water in but it can keep flowing round and round and is not lost.

Twilight_guy:
My question: If the thing is negative 185 Celsius how does he avoid burning his fingers when he touches it?

What he's touching isn't the 88K disc, but the ice that will be constantly be forming around it. The ice will still be subzero but not so cold as to instantly kill off tissue with momentary contact. Same way that you can snuff out a candle with your fingers without burning your hand.

Daaaah Whoosh:
Sooooo...

Hovercars, anyone?

Sure, who WOULDN't want to sit for an extended period of time in something that only becomes super-conductive (and thus gains the ability to hoover) at -185 Celsius?

^^

therandombear:

Twilight_guy:
My question: If the thing is negative 185 Celsius how does he avoid burning his fingers when he touches it?

I was thinking that aswell, that should be so cold he gets burned.

Two reasons:
One, it looks like there is plastic packaging in the way between his fingers and the liquid Nitrogen. (note: the disk is actually the very thin thing at the bottom, not all the white stuff: That *is* nitrogen)
Two, he never touches it long enough to get ice-burned - it's quite likely that heat is stolen from his fingers but the nitrogen will evaporate before his fingers get noticeably cold.

It's like how you can pour liquid Nitrogen onto your hand and still have fingers afterwards.

Am I the only one who thinks that the floating disc of sorcery looks really delicious? Like... it seems like it would have a flavor that mankind has never experienced before. It kind of looks like a thin mint. Maybe it is the god of thin mints, capable of levitation...

Question: Doesn't the laws of thermodynamics disprove true super-conductivity? Is it not impossible to get absolute zero resistance in an object (though not impossible to get it really, really low, thus making it look like no energy is lost)?

ADDITIONAL SCIENCE!

The holy grail of superconductivity are room temperature supercondutors; superconducting materials that can be used without all that pesky near absolute zero stuff. This may be achived with Graphene, a new wonder stuff that can have chemicals places on it to potentially superconduct.

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