In the year 2000, a levitating frog won an Ig Nobel prize in recognition of a team of scientists led by Dr. Andre Geim who used diamagnetism to make the anuran (along with a cricket and some plants) float in mid-air. Geim went on to earn the Nobel Prize for his work with graphene years later, but that’s enough about him. Let’s discuss about frogs that are able to float. Everything has a magnetic quality to it. Before we continue on, it’s vital to understand how diamagnetism may raise a frog (and, perhaps, a human) off the ground.
When we think about magnetic things, we usually think of metals like iron and cobalt, and with good reason: they have a lot of magnetism. Everything, however, has a magnetic field. Some people are simply more powerful than others. When atoms and electrons speed around one other, they form a field that repels opposing forces (when put in, instance, one of the world’s strongest electromagnets). Diamagnetism is a quantum mechanical phenomena that may occur in anything, living or inanimate, frog or bug.
In 1997, Geim and colleagues put this hypothesis to the test by putting a frog into the throat of a high-field magnet, and the amphibian, to their amazement, took to the air like a flying deity. The levitating amphibian became so famous that Geim and colleagues were awarded the Ig Nobel Prize, bringing even more attention to the experiment. Following that, they started receiving all kinds of requests, including one from the leader of a tiny religious organization in England, who “offered us a million pounds if we could levitate him in front of his congregation to boost his public relations,” as they told NPR.
If you’re concerned about the safety of the floating frog and its fellow participants, be assured that the experiment had no detrimental consequences for the living individuals. Aside from turning frogs into superstars, diamagnetic levitation has uses in industry and research, such as studying the effects of zero gravity as floating living organisms on Earth is less expensive than transporting them into space.
In terms of levitating a human, a helpful YouTube video from SciShow estimates that it is doable, but most machines don’t have the area (around the size of a bagel). Scientists are continue experimenting with the technique, such as making cells float to better comprehend medications. Do you still fantasize of taking flight? You could always try this flying automobile, or a hoverboard if that doesn’t appeal to you.