RSS
Will 'quantum levitation' help us build hoverboards?
A team of students creates an "amazing" floating puck reminiscent of Marty McFly's flying skateboard in Back to the Future Part II 
 
The hoverboard in "Back to the Future Part II": Israeli students have figured out how to lock an object in midair, and Marty McFly would likely approve.
The hoverboard in "Back to the Future Part II": Israeli students have figured out how to lock an object in midair, and Marty McFly would likely approve.
YouTube

The video: Using a frozen magnet and some complex science, students from Tel Aviv University's Superconductivity Group School of Physics and Astronomy have created a "quantum locking" device that has geeks dreaming of hoverboards. The students' "mystical fizzling" magnetic puck can float above a magnetic track, "locked" in mid-air as it moves. (Watch a video below.) Liquid nitrogen drastically lowers the temperature of the puck, which is made of yttrium barium copper, explains Olivia Solon at Wired. Once the super-cold puck enters a superconducting state, it becomes "strongly diamagnetic." That means that, when paired with another magnetic field (in this case, a magnetic track), "it will create an equally opposing magnetic field, locking it in place." A nudge will send the elevated puck zooming around the track.

The reaction: For people who "still hanker after" a futuristic hoverboard like the one that Michael J. Fox's Marty McFly sped around on in Back to the Future Part IIsays Britain's Daily Mail, this experiment brings us "one step closer" to that scenario. The video is "amazing," says William Goodman at CBS News, demonstrating once again "just how cool science can be." See for yourself:

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week