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Q & A: Magician's Levitation

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
How can I make my self levitate? By using magnets? I want to be able to lift myself up in the air 12 inches and make it look like magic. Thank you!
- tyson (age 16)
fierce ent., ontario,canada
A:
Tyson -

It would be extremely impractical to try to levitate yourself using magnets. Even in a lab setting, where big magnets are available and nothing has to be hidden from the audience, the biggest animal that's been levitated is a tiny frog.  I think that your best bet will be to resort to actual magicians' tricks. Magicians use sleight of hand and other trickery so that the audience can't see what's going on. I looked around online and found which has a video that you can buy that supposedly explains how to do all sorts of levitation tricks.

-Tamara

Earnshaw's theorem proves that no combination of gravitational forces and magnetic forces (with the exception of diamagnetism) can give any stable levitation at all. Diamagnetism (the tendency of some materials to repel magnetic fields) is so weak for ordinary materials (e.g. you) that it becomes extremely hard to levitate such materials  with the types of magnetic fields which you can get. The one major exception is that typical superconductors exhibit the Meissner effect, completely expelling magnetic fields. It's hard to wear superconductors, however, since they have to be kept very cold. You'd have to wear magnets and walk on a bed of cold superconductors. Unfortunately, the superconductivity collapses at fairly low fields, allowing some field to penetrate the superconductor. Without wearing some enormous clown shoes, so that the fields could be kept small, I don't think even this trick would work.

Mike W.

(published on 10/22/2007)

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