[Rick Edwards]I’m about
to try and do somethingthat I’ve always dreamt of,but never thought
would be possible… levitate.I want to know
if I can defy gravity
using the power of science.Mastering levitation
could transform our world,benefiting everything from
the environment we live into medicine.This technology
could change your life. [Rick]And to someone
who loves science…It feels like
I’m looking at magic.…I want to know
how close we are.[Colin Furze] Ta-da! [Rick]So I’ve got in touch
with YouTube creators
across the world…-What’s that?
superconductor. [Rick]…and together,
we’re going to try and findthe cutting-edge
science and technology…I’m super curious to know
how all this works. This is cool. [Rick]…that will
tell us if it’s possible
to beat gravity.Take that, Earth. Right. I’m gonna do it.There’s no agreed
definition of levitation.It basically means
in the air.”So to set some rules,I’m meeting
one of the internet’s
most brilliant inventors.-Colin?
-[Colin] Oh, Rick! [Rick] Hello, mate,
how are ya? [Colin] Good.
Welcome to the shed. [Rick] What have
we got in here? -Well, you know–
-This is exciting! -Of course it is.
It’s the Colin Furze shed.
-Yeah. -These are me magnet shoes.
-Yes. -That’s a pure win.
-Yeah. [Colin] Can’t not be
happy with that. -Flamethrowing guitar.
-Of course. -[playing rock music]
-[yelling and laughing] If you’re gonna
rock and roll, you’ve gotta
have a flamethrowing guitar. I’m here to actually
talk to you about levitation. Personal question,
but have you ever levitated? No, not levitated. I suppose
the closest I’ve ever… I’ll tell you what,
I’ll show you. Ta-da! Yes. [laughing] [Colin] So this is me hoverbike, which I can’t believe
actually worked, but it did. This thing
is basically a death trap. It’s just plotting
to take your legs off. So the hoverbike
is very cool, no doubt. But for me, anyway, this is flying
more than levitating. Yeah, definitely. You don’t
look at a helicopter and go, “The helicopter is levitating.” No. I think we need to get rid
of moving parts, probably. One that I would want
to rule out is, sort of,
weightlessness in space. Well, everyone can levitate
in space, -can’t they? Yeah.
-[Rick] Exactly. Any kind of
like the maglev trains… -That’s good.
-…that feels good to me. So if we want
you to levitate, -we need some rules,
-Yeah. What we’re looking for
is raised up, off the ground, without any moving parts, without any mechanical support. That’s what we’re after. Can we do it?
I don’t know, really. We’re gonna find out though,
aren’t we? All right, Rick. We’re gonna
have a blimming good go, mate. Okay, Rick,
so you wanna levitate? Well, unfortunately,
that’s not easy, or we’d probably
all be doing it. But there’s actually
some really amazing research
about levitation using sound. Sound can actually
exert a force on objects. It can move things.
Check it out. This contraption
is called a “Chladni plate.” And I’ve hooked it up
to a frequency generator. When I turn up the volume… [Chladni plate humming] …the plate will
start to vibrate. Check out what happens
when I sprinkle some salt
onto the plate. [humming continues] So cool! The vibration of the sound waves
moves the salt into patterns. [Rick]Moving stuff
with sound waves,we’ve got to give this a go!Let’s try a bit of music. [Rick] Go on. [bass-heavy music playing] [Rick]
The louder the music…the more powerful
the sound waves
and the more our paint jumps.-Well, it looks pretty.
-Not levitation. No, not quite levitation,
but there is power there. I mean, I think
if we was to try
and levitate you by sound, -we’d need a massive speaker.
-All right, bit rude. [laughs] [Chladni plate humming] But there’s more.
Watch what happens
when I change the frequency. [high-pitched humming] [pitch changing] Sound is a vibration. Whether you’re clapping
or you’re shouting, that vibration
carries a sound wave through the air
to your eardrums,
and that’s what you’re hearing. In this case, the sound waves
are moving through the metal and they’re vibrating the salt. So, on the plate where
the salt is jumping around, that’s where you’re getting
from the sound waves. But in these parts
where the salt is really calm, that’s the basis
of levitation with sound. [Rick]The areas
where the salt gathersare actually where
the sound waves are
canceling each other out,known as “nodes,”and controlling those
is the key to sonic levitation.A team of
world-leading scientistsare pushing that idea
to its limits.And I want to find out
if their technologycan help me levitate.-Oh, my God.
-Pretty cool. I mean…
it’s freaky, is what it is. [Rick]They’re building
the sonic levitation machines
of the future.It’s fixed in there.
You know, it’s pretty robust. And we can move
things around in it. [Rick] These are just like
tiny little loudspeakers? [Bruce] Yeah. Every one of them
produces sound waves. Some coming from the bottom,
some coming from the top. They meet in the middle,
and they interfere. You get a quiet region
and a loud region. Quiet region, loud region. We call
the quiet regions “nodes.” [Rick]So the balls
are sitting in the nodes,the same nodes that
we saw the salt build up at
on the Chladni plate.[Bruce] We can
actually visualize that. So here’s our dry ice. You can see
it follows the patterns. They’re almost like
on a bed of sound. It feels like
I’m looking at magic. The thing that makes it
feel spookiest, I think, is that it’s silent. And we’re talking
about sound waves,
but I can’t hear anything. [Bruce] Yeah. It’s ultrasound.
So, beyond the audible range. -Is it loud?
as ultrasonic waves go. It’s of the order
of 160 decibels. -Oh, that’s
like a jet engine.
-Yeah. [Rick]Bruce’s team
have already built machinesthat can levitate liquid…Oh, now it’s having a bit of fun
with the polystyrene ball. [Rick]…and even move
in precise patterns.People would call these things
“acoustic tweezers,” actually. [Rick] So this is amazing. But my ambition is to levitate
something a bit bigger.Clearly keen to impress,Bruce has built
his biggest ever levitator
just for us.Oh, yeah, now, we’re talking. Yeah, here we have
the much bigger levitator. We’re hoping to break
a world record with this. I would love to break
a world record today, -I’m not gonna lie.
-Okay. And where’s the other half? Is this working
in a different way? So this is
an acoustic vortex. So we fire these loudspeakers
in a sequence, so we create a spiral of sound. And then the object gets caught
like in the eye of a storm? Yeah, in the eye of the storm.
Exactly. So this is pretty much
on the world record. [quiet humming] -[Bruce] Oh.
-[Rick] Ooh… -[Bruce] Ah.
-[Rick] Ooh! Not easy,
this levitation business, is it? Hello.
Don’t leave me hanging. That’s it. [Rick] We’ve equaled
the world record. I now want to break
the world record. Okay, so, here we have
the world record beater,
potentially. Okay. I’m gonna
make this official
by using this little, um… What’s this called,
a micrometer? Yeah, or Vernier caliper. -Yeah, let’s go micrometer.
-[Bruce laughs] So that’ll break
the world record? -Absolutely, by a clear
margin of two millimeters.
-[exhales sharply] -So…
-Breathe. [humming] Please, please, please. Come on. -I think that is
the world record.
-Yes! -That is the world record.
-Yes! Largest object. I’ve never
broken a world record before. Oh, I love it. Now, Rick, you may have
broken a world record,
and congratulations on that, but remember,
we said levitation
with no mechanical assistance. And little tiny speakers,
I think that’s
mechanical assistance. So, keep trying. [Rick]Yeah, all right,
Colin. Fair point.But… this is
still a technology
with amazing potential.Right now, it might just look
like a few floating balls, but before long, this technology
could change your life, or maybe even save it. Imagine if your doctor could
move things around in your body without surgery
and without scalpels… Say, delivering a capsule
of medicine to a specific spot, breaking up kidney stones, maybe even removing tumors, all of this
without opening you up. It sounds like science fiction, but by programming
sound waves in order to move objects
with utmost precision, this could become
a feasible reality. Or how about
a factory production line where component parts
can be moved around seamlessly on a bed of sound,
so there’s no manipulation,
no hands and no tools? A real-life sonic screwdriver
could be closer than you think. [Rick]A future of sonic
surgeries and screwdrivers
sounds great.But that technology won’t
levitate me anytime soon.I think it’s time to tackle
the fundamental force
that’s keeping me grounded,gravity.Well, Rick, if you want to
get to grips with gravity, you’re gonna need
to start by thinking big. And I mean cosmically big. Imagine that this
piece of black cloth… is the universe,
the very fabric of space-time. There are no planets,
no stars… nothing at all. And because of that,
there’s no gravity. Because the most important
thing about gravity
is that it’s caused by mass. So, let’s introduce
some mass into our scene. A star, let’s call it the Sun. So, if we put it in space-time, we actually create
a well around the Sun. And then if we introduce a little blue planet Earth… we can watch what happens. So, only 93 million miles away, we’re close enough to
the enormous mass of the Sun that we actually get pulled in
by its gravity into this well. And we start to orbit the Sun, as does anything else. So the Earth is pulled
towards the Sun, but everything else on Earth, you, me, this whole
model of space-time, is subject to the Earth’s
own gravitational pull. And that’s why you’re
stuck to the ground, Rick. But all is not lost. Despite what you might think, gravity is actually the weakest
of the fundamental forces. If I drop this little ball, it falls to the Earth
under its gravitational pull. But I can actually
overcome gravity with this tiny little magnet. So the force that is holding
this magnet to the iron ball is electromagnetism. And it’s 10 to the power
of 40 times stronger
than gravity. [Rick]Okay, now,
we’re getting somewhere.I’ve seen magnets in action
with Colin’s magnetic shoes.So, could magnets
be the answer to
getting me up in the air?Okay, Rick.
So, these sets of magnets both have a north
and a south pole. And opposite poles attract. And same poles repel. It’s that repulsion
that we want for levitation. So, if I take a look
at this set of magnets inside of this test tube, on the bottom
is a set of magnets
with the north pole down. Now, if I put them over
this magnet with
the north pole up… levitation. But there’s a problem.
As soon as I remove my finger, the magnets fly out. Magnets are constantly trying
to flip over so that
the opposite poles meet. So how can we make
more stable? And more importantly,
how can we do it
on a large scale?There’s a guy
here in California
we wanna talk to,because he’s thinking big.He wants to levitate buildings.Hi, guys. I’m super curious
to know how all this works, but I really want
to see it in action. [whirring] Oh, wow. Oh, man, that is so cool. There’s a lot
of resistance there. Yeah, and you can actually
see it bounce in midair. [Dianna] Oh, wow. [Greg Henderson]
You should give it a try. Oh, no. Okay, yes. [laughter] Okay, here we go. -[Greg] You got it.
-[Dianna] Okay. [exclaims and laughs] And then it turns, so that’s…
[exclaims] I promise you I’m not trying
to go that close to the edge. [laughter] [Greg] All right! -[Dianna] Ah!
-[Nick] Hey, that was good. [laughter] [sighs] Phew! [Dianna] So how did the idea
for this come about? As an architect,
I’ve been working for most of my adult life on better ways to build
for natural disasters. [Dianna] Oh, everyone’s familiar
with big earthquakes
here in the Bay Area. If you want to separate
a house or a structure from the earth for the duration
of an earthquake, -what about
an electromagnetic field?
-Mm-hmm. And so the idea was,
if you can levitate
a 50,000-kilogram train, why not a house? Well, when you start
to dive into the technology, you realize
the magnetic levitation trains
need to be moving, and sometimes 100 miles an hour,
before they actually levitate. So, how do you levitate
a stationary object? So I had the idea, “What if
that train went in a circle?” -[Dianna] Mm-hmm.
-[Greg] Right? And then what if that train
was the same length
as the track? [whirring] [Dianna] I see.
The entire train is your system. It’s just a thing
moving in a circle. -Yeah. Okay.
-Yes. And so we
take that concept and we shrink it down,
and we get a hover engine. And here, you can see
four of them… -[Dianna] Oh.
-…each one of these
is an individual train. Okay, so I think
I have a good handle
on how this technology works. I’m gonna show you
a quick demo with a copper tube. So, if I take a piece of candy and I drop it through the tube, it falls through pretty quickly. But if instead I use a magnet… it takes much longer
for the magnet to
fall through the tube. Now, the reason why, is that
the magnet has a magnetic field, and when that magnetic field
moves through the tube, it creates another
opposing magnetic field
that pushes up, it repels the magnet
and keeps it
from falling as fast. Which is similar
to what’s going on
in the technology behind me. There’s moving magnets
in the bottom of the white box, and those create
another magnetic field
in the copper sheet on the bottom
which pushes up on the box. -[Greg] So, how about
-[Dianna] Earthquake. -Ready?
-Yeah. That’s really cool. [Greg] So it turns out,
if you want to levitate
a 50,000-kilogram house for, let’s say, 90 seconds, or the duration of an earthquake
like we have here in California, the amount of energy required
is stored in only
five car batteries. The challenge is getting
it out very, very quickly. [Rick]It’s cool tech,
but the engine
in that hoverboxmeans it relies
on moving parts,so that rules it out for us.But I do want to know
where else this could lead.When it comes to the future
of magnetic levitation, the possibilities
are almost limitless. We can already buy levitating light bulbs,
phone chargers, record players. But in the near future,
we could even have floating
joysticks for fighter pilots where the knobs and buttons
hover in midair. But if we look
even further ahead, the possibilities for
this tech get really bold. Take the Hyperloop, the pet project of
and fringe scientists… Forget the maglev train. They want to use magnetic
levitation to transport
capsules of people through depressurized tubes
at speeds of up to
700 miles an hour. This would be the world’s
most efficient transport system if they can get it to work. [Rick]Hyperloop travel
is a way off.But Colin thinks magnets
could still be the keyto levitating me.[phone ringing]Hey, man, how’s it going?It’s all good.
You need to get back here. I’ve got a more practical
experiment to show you, which is levitation.Genuine levitation?Genuine levitation.-I’m there. See you in a bit.
-All right. Yeah. [Rick] Colin,
what you got for me? [Colin] Oh, mate,
perfect timing. -[Rick] What’s that?
-[Colin] Liquid nitrogen,
superconductor. I’m cooling it down,
it’s gotta be as cold
as we can possibly get it. [steam hissing] [Rick] So how cold
are we talking, then? [Colin] Proper cold. I’ll tell you what,
I’ll show you. So I’ve got an orange here. [Rick] Okay. [Rick]At around
minus 200 degrees Celsius,the liquid nitrogen
freezes the orange in seconds.-Right, there’s a hammer.
-Oh, very good. I thought you’d
like this bit. Go for it, chap. Oh! [laughing] That’s really good. [Colin] Right, back in you go. So are these
super-strong magnets? [Colin] Yeah,
they’re neodymium ones. Don’t get your keys
or your phone or anything
next to it. -[Rick] Beautiful.
-It’ll get rid of your
WhatsApp history in a second. -Oh, hang on.
Let me get my phone.
-[both laugh] -Right, are we ready?
-Yeah. It’s gonna levitate, Rick. Which is what
we’re all about, ain’t we? Come on, then. So, if we put it here, look. -Look at that.
-[Rick] Oh, mate. [Rick]This ceramic disc
is a superconductorand it demonstrates a strange
scientific principlethat, to be honest,
is not fully understood.Ooh! Yes, please. [Rick]When a superconductor is
placed above a strong magnet,it locks into the
magnetic field and levitates.-I just love how it bobs around.
-That is really cool. And then look,
it starts to warm up,
starts to warm up, and then it’s like
it’s fed up of levitating now. -But for a moment there…
-[Colin] I know. [Rick]So we get
stable magnetic levitationwithout the moving parts
that ruled out the hoverbox.[Rick] So hang on.
I wanna see it go
all the way around the track. Yeah, we need to keep
it colder for longer. So I’ve got a little plan. We’ve got this
little thing here, look. And then we’re gonna put
in here to keep it cold. Then hopefully that should
give us a bit more
than a few seconds. Right, then,
Mr. Superconductor. [hissing] Fingers crossed. Oh, it’s quite chilly.
I’ll give it that. -Is it working?
-Ooh! Look at that. -And it’s upside down.
-And upside down. Oh, man. That is so cool. Oh, come on. [laughs] It’s amazing. [Rick] What? This is exactly
what we’re after. -This is levitation.
-Yeah. No moving parts,
no mechanical trickery. So if we make you
a bit smaller, ’cause, you know,
you are a giant… -Yeah.
-Of all the people
to try and get to levitate. [laughs] I know, I know. [laughs] If we could
get you in there… The problem is
just scaling up, isn’t it? Okay. Well, while
you folk figure out
how to upsize that track, I want to talk
about superconductors. Clearly, they’re your best bet
to actually get off the ground, but they’re also one
of the coolest materials
on the planet. What’s so unique
about these is they have
zero electrical resistance. This means that
an electric current can move through
a superconductor without slowing down and barely leaking
any energy away, meaning, it could go
pretty much forever. There’s only one problem, the vast majority
of superconductors only really work
at a temperature of around
minus 200 degrees Celsius. So scientists are on
a multi-million-pound quest in order to build
a superconductor that would work
at room temperatures. And if or rather
when that happens, we could have pretty much
levitating everything, desks, cars,
maybe even skateboards. [Rick]Well, guess what,
the future might be
closer than you think.Colin’s got wind
of a levitating hoverboardthat works in just the same way
as our little boat,but has 32 individual
superconductors inside.That should make itover 200 times stronger
than our mini version.It’s bumpy.
You can feel the bumps. [Rick]With the help of
240 liters of liquid nitrogenand a team of technicians
to scale things up,it might just be
powerful enoughto levitate me.But if I’m going
to ride a hoverboard,I’ll need to learn on
something a bit easier first.Time to call in an expert.I have never skateboarded. I’ve never snowboarded. But I really, really want
to try and get on this
hoverboard and levitate. I think everyone wants
to levitate on this hoverboard. -‘Course they do!
-[laughs] Any chance? I reckon so. I think
we can get you there. -Great, great.
-[laughs] 100% is all about the balance. A lot of it is to do
with your foot positioning
on the board. -Okay. So, nice, wide stance…
-Nice, wide stance always helps. Yeah. And you wanna keep
nice and straight. And then what am I doing
with my hands? Just sort of… Your hands can do
whatever you wanna do.
That’s where the style comes in. Yeah. I imagine what
my hands are gonna be doing
is being alert. -To catch my fall. [laughs]
-Exactly that. [Rick]Meanwhile,
sorting out a track
for me to levitate aboveis Colin’s job.Now, remember outside the shed,
we had a massive magnetic track? Well, we have took that
to the next level. We have set up
a giant magnetic track. Now, this is a section, and this is like a row
of super-powerful magnets, like, super-powerful ones. To demonstrate
how powerful this is, here’s a little washer,
just a normal washer. If I put this in my hand
and then just hover it
over the track… As I bring it down, it’ll stand it up. And what’s that? That’s about
four inches away from the track and I’m feeling
the force of it pulling. Now, if this washer
was a thick piece of metal
and I put my hand in there, it would literally
just crush it. We’ve had to be careful when
we put this track together, because if the two bits
flip together and somebody’s in between them,
they’re gonna die. So we do not
want that to happen. So, Rick, get better
Don’t hurt yourself. [all exclaim] [Rick] Colin, you’ve delivered. Biggest magnetic track
I could get you. I asked you to make it big.
You’ve made it big. [Colin] The pressure’s
on you now, boy. [Rick] It is a bit, isn’t it? So… am I gonna be
standing on some sort
of superconductor then? Yes. Yes, you are. You’re not going to be standing,
you’re going to be levitating. I’ve got you a hoverboard. [Rick] I can’t believe…
An actual hoverboard. -[Colin] Yes.
-It’s a hoverboard. This was developed by Lexus.
This is like the real deal. Oliver here designed it. -[Rick] Hello, Oliver.
-[Oliver] Hello. -Okay, there are two packs
-[Rick] Yeah. And then we have two chambers where we fill in
the liquid nitrogen. Right,
shall we fill her up? -Oh, I like all this.
-This is good, isn’t it? It’s like being in
an ’80s music video. What temperature will that cool
the superconductors down to? [Oliver] About minus
200 centigrade. [Rick] That’s cold. I don’t remember Marty McFly
having to do this. [laughter] [Rick]
At this freezing temperature,the superconductors
will be able to lock into the
magnetic field of the track.In theory, they should be
strong enough to levitate
all 100 kilos of me.[Colin] Look at that. [Rick] Just hovering. Genuine levitation. [Colin] Right, come on! I’m gonna do it.
I feel quite nervous. -[sighs] Okay, okay.
-Right then, Rick. -So…
-[Rianne] Remember our
skate lesson. You’ve got it. [Rick] I feel like
I’ve dreamt about this. [Colin] Was I there
in the dream as well? No, you weren’t, Colin.
It was just me
and I was levitating. -[Colin laughing]
-Here we go. Okay, let… let go, mate. [Colin] I’m not holding you.
You’re holding me. I’m just stood here. [Rick] I think… I’m levitating. I’m… I’m levitating! -Colin, I’m levitating.
-[laughter] -[Colin] Yes!
-Oh, my god. Amazing! [Rick] Oh, my God! I’m levitating. I’m doing it. I’m doing it.
This feels amazing. [Colin] Yeah, you’re not
touching the floor. Give me a little push
and see what happens. [nervously] Off he goes…
Off he goes! -[Colin] You got it?
-Sort of. Yes. -[all laugh and exclaim]
-Oh, my God. Oh, wow. Are we getting
to the end of the ramp? [Colin] Nearly. Okay. Stop me,
stop me, stop me, stop me. Whew! Yes, please. [applause] [Colin] Right. Come on, Rick.
I’ve gotta have a shot on this. [Rick] You’ve gotta have a go. [Colin] Oh, yeah! [Rick chuckles] Okay, okay, yes. You’re getting to the edge,
you’re getting to the edge. -[laughing]
-You’re getting to the edge. -[Colin] Oh, here we are.
-[Rick] Nice. Nice. [Rick]Time to see
what a professional can do.[Colin] Hoverboard. Welcome to the future. [Rick]Clearly,
Rianne’s a natural.Let’s see how she handles
Colin’s jump.-Come on.
-Come on, Rianne. [all cheer] Whoo! [Rick] Yes! -[all cheering]
-Oh. [laughs] Yes. [Colin] That is cool. [Ines] Oh… [sing-song] Here goes nothing. I can’t believe it. Rick wanted
to defy gravity, and he has. -There we go. There we go.
-[Josie] Whoa… Yes! [laughter] Take that, Earth. [Ines] Amazing.You did it, Rick.
Congratulations.You worked with
the laws of physics
and you were able to levitate.-Whoo, here we go. Right.
-[Ines] You got this.I really wish I was there
to celebrate with you.-Oh, my gosh!
Ooh. Ooh, hello.
-There we go. That was incredible. Oh, my gosh. It’s so smooth. And, hey, maybe in the future,
it will be you riding
a hoverboard around town. -[Rick] Good!
-[Colin] There we are.
There we are. I feel like I’ve ticked
something off a bucket list
I haven’t even written yet. This isBack to the Future,
this is like dreams come true. I’m doing it! I’m levitating! We did it.
we beat gravity. I’ve had a very good day. -Pleased to hear that, Colin.
So have I.
-[all laugh] [Rick]We hope you enjoyed
The Edge of Science.To see more original shows,
please click on the
bottom right of the screen.