2000 – Levitating Frogs

Have you ever wondered how to levitate a frog? In 2000, two scientists did just that and were awarded the Ig Noble prize for physics.

(This article was originally published at scienceray.com on 31 December 2010.)

Levitating Frog by Lijnis Nelemans

Levitating Frog by Lijnis Nelemans

Andre Geim and Sir Michael Berry were awarded the Ig Noble prize for physics in 2000 for their 1997 paper “Of Flying Frogs and Levitrons”, published in the European Journal of Physics.

Geim and Berry explained the principle of diamagnetic levitation. A magnetic field can be induced in an object that is generally thought of as non-magnetic, a frog for example, by placing it over a strong electromagnet.

The research shows that all materials, and living organisms, possess molecular magnetism. The electrons within these materials react to the magnetic field by altering their orbits around an atom’s nucleus in such a way as to oppose its influence. Molecular magnetism is millions of times weaker than ferromagnetism, so the field strengths need to be much greater in order to levitate non-magnetic objects.

Other objects were also used in the experiments, such as water droplets and strawberries, but frogs were chosen so that the scientific community and the public would remember the research. The frog suffered no ill effects from the its experience.

(Watch a video of the levitation experiment.)

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