Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Levitation Goes from Science Fiction to Science Fact

Scottish scientists at the University of St Andrew have discovered a way to reverse the “Casimir effect,” a force that governs matter at the atomic level. Sounds abstract, yes, but the Casimir effect, also known as the “dry glue” effect, allows geckos to walk across the ceiling. This according to a report today at the Telegraph. And you thought geckos used suction cups on their finger tips! (Um, I did.)

By reversing the Casimir effect with a “special lens,” scientists have achieved “incredible levitation effects.” Though they’re not saying what exactly they’re levitating or for how long. No, it’s not human beings. Researchers say levitating people is a “long way off.” But that doesn’t make this breakthrough any less significant.

The Casimir effect is referred to by one expert as “the ultimate cause of friction in the nano-world.” With the ability to manipulate this effect, scientists can keep nanoparticles from sticking together. This stickiness has caused headaches for scientists “trying to build electrical circuits and tiny mechanical devices on silicon chips, among other things.” Now, “micro or nano machines could run smoother and with less or no friction.”

An interesting side note: earlier work by the same team of scientists showed that, in theory, objects can be cloaked. Yes, in the Star Trek-sense of the word. The theory suggests light waves can be manipulated to “flow around an object - just as a river flows undisturbed around a smooth rock.”

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Pound360 Archive

About Me

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.