[Rick Edwards] I'm about to try and do something that I've always dreamt of, but never thoughtwould be possible.
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 in to medicine.
This technologycould change your life.
[Rick] And to someone who loves science.
It feels likeI'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?-Liquid nitrogen, superconductor.
and together, we're going to try and find the cutting-edge science and technology.
I'm super curious to knowhow all this works.
This is cool.
that will tell us if it's possible to beat gravity.
Take that, Earth.
I'm gonna do it.
There's no agreed definition of levitation.
It basically means “mysteriously floating 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 havewe got in here? -Well, you know—This is exciting! -Of course it is.
It's the Colin Furze shed.
-These are me magnet shoes.
-That's a pure win.
[Colin] Can't not behappy with that.
-[playing rock music]-[yelling and laughing] If you're gonnarock and roll, you've gottahave a flamethrowing guitar.
I'm here to actuallytalk to you about levitation.
Personal question, but have you ever levitated? No, not levitated.
I supposethe closest I've ever.
I'll tell you what, I'll show you.
[laughing] [Colin] So this is me hoverbike, which I can't believeactually worked, but it did.
This thingis basically a death trap.
It's just plottingto take your legs off.
So the hoverbikeis very cool, no doubt.
But for me, anyway, this is flyingmore than levitating.
You don'tlook at a helicopter and go, “The helicopter is levitating.
I think we need to get ridof moving parts, probably.
One that I would wantto rule out is, sort of, weightlessness in space.
Well, everyone can levitatein space, -can't they? Yeah.
Any kind ofmagnetic levitation, like the maglev trains.
that feels good to me.
So if we wantyou to levitate, -we need some rules, don't we?-Yeah.
What we're looking foris 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 gonnahave a blimming good go, mate.
Okay, Rick, so you wanna levitate? Well, unfortunately, that's not easy, or we'd probablyall be doing it.
But there's actuallysome really amazing researchabout levitation using sound.
Sound can actuallyexert a force on objects.
It can move things.
Check it out.
This contraptionis called a “Chladni plate.
” And I've hooked it upto a frequency generator.
When I turn up the volume.
[Chladni plate humming] .
the plate willstart to vibrate.
Check out what happenswhen I sprinkle some saltonto the plate.
[humming continues] So cool! The vibration of the sound wavesmoves 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.
No, not quite levitation, but there is power there.
I mean, I thinkif we was to tryand levitate you by sound, -we'd need a massive speaker.
-All right, bit rude.
[laughs] [Chladni plate humming] But there's more.
Watch what happenswhen I change the frequency.
[high-pitched humming] [pitch changing] Sound is a vibration.
Whether you're clappingor you're shouting, that vibrationcarries a sound wave through the airto your eardrums, and that's what you're hearing.
In this case, the sound wavesare moving through the metal and they're vibrating the salt.
So, on the plate wherethe salt is jumping around, that's where you're gettingstrong vibrationsfrom the sound waves.
But in these partswhere the salt is really calm, that's the basisof levitation with sound.
[Rick] The areas where the salt gathers are actually where the sound waves are canceling each other out, known as “nodes, ” and controlling thoseis the key to sonic levitation.
A team of world-leading scientists are pushing that idea to its limits.
And I want to find out if their technology can help me levitate.
-Oh, my God.
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 movethings around in it.
[Rick] These are just liketiny little loudspeakers? [Bruce] Yeah.
Every one of themproduces sound waves.
Some coming from the bottom, some coming from the top.
They meet in the middle, and they interfere.
You get a quiet regionand a loud region.
Quiet region, loud region.
We callthe 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 canactually visualize that.
So here's our dry ice.
You can seeit follows the patterns.
They're almost likeon a bed of sound.
It feels likeI'm looking at magic.
The thing that makes itfeel spookiest, I think, is that it's silent.
And we're talkingabout sound waves, but I can't hear anything.
So, beyond the audible range.
-Is it loud?-Incredibly loudas ultrasonic waves go.
It's of the orderof 160 decibels.
-Oh, that'slike a jet engine.
[Rick] Bruce's team have already built machines that can levitate liquid.
Oh, now it's having a bit of funwith the polystyrene ball.
and even move objects around in precise patterns.
People would call these things”acoustic tweezers, ” actually.
[Rick] So this is amazing.
But my ambition is to levitatesomething 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 havethe much bigger levitator.
We're hoping to breaka world record with this.
I would love to breaka world record today, -I'm not gonna lie.
And where's the other half? Is this workingin a different way? So this isan acoustic vortex.
So we fire these loudspeakersin a sequence, so we create a spiral of sound.
And then the object gets caughtlike in the eye of a storm? Yeah, in the eye of the storm.
So this is pretty muchon the world record.
[quiet humming] -[Bruce] Oh.
-[Rick] Ooh! Not easy, this levitation business, is it? Hello.
Don't leave me hanging.
[Rick] We've equaledthe world record.
I now want to breakthe world record.
Okay, so, here we havethe world record beater, potentially.
I'm gonnamake this officialby using this little, um.
What's this called, a micrometer? Yeah, or Vernier caliper.
-Yeah, let's go micrometer.
-[Bruce laughs] So that'll breakthe world record? -Absolutely, by a clearmargin of two millimeters.
-[exhales sharply] -So.
[humming] Please, please, please.
-I think that isthe world record.
-Yes! -That is the world record.
-Yes! Largest object.
I've neverbroken a world record before.
Oh, I love it.
Now, Rick, you may havebroken a world record, and congratulations on that, but remember, we said levitationwith no mechanical assistance.
And little tiny speakers, I think that'smechanical assistance.
So, keep trying.
[Rick] Yeah, all right, Colin.
this is still a technology with amazing potential.
Right now, it might just looklike a few floating balls, but before long, this technologycould change your life, or maybe even save it.
Imagine if your doctor couldmove things around in your body without surgeryand without scalpels.
Say, delivering a capsuleof medicine to a specific spot, breaking up kidney stones, maybe even removing tumors, all of thiswithout opening you up.
It sounds like science fiction, but by programmingsound waves in order to move objectswith utmost precision, this could becomea feasible reality.
Or how abouta factory production line where component partscan be moved around seamlessly on a bed of sound, so there's no manipulation, no hands and no tools? A real-life sonic screwdrivercould 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 toget to grips with gravity, you're gonna needto start by thinking big.
And I mean cosmically big.
Imagine that thispiece 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 importantthing about gravityis that it's caused by mass.
So, let's introducesome mass into our scene.
A star, let's call it the Sun.
So, if we put it in space-time, we actually createa 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 tothe enormous mass of the Sun that we actually get pulled inby its gravity into this well.
And we start to orbit the Sun, as does anything else.
So the Earth is pulledtowards the Sun, but everything else on Earth, you, me, this wholemodel of space-time, is subject to the Earth'sown gravitational pull.
And that's why you'restuck to the ground, Rick.
But all is not lost.
Despite what you might think, gravity is actually the weakestof the fundamental forces.
If I drop this little ball, it falls to the Earthunder its gravitational pull.
But I can actuallyovercome gravity with this tiny little magnet.
So the force that is holdingthis magnet to the iron ball is electromagnetism.
And it's 10 to the powerof 40 times strongerthan 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 northand a south pole.
And opposite poles attract.
And same poles repel.
It's that repulsionthat we want for levitation.
So, if I take a lookat this set of magnets inside of this test tube, on the bottomis a set of magnetswith the north pole down.
Now, if I put them overthis magnet withthe north pole up.
But there's a problem.
As soon as I remove my finger, the magnets fly out.
Magnets are constantly tryingto flip over so thatthe opposite poles meet.
So how can we makemagnetic levitationmore stable? And more importantly, how can we do iton a large scale? There's a guy here in California we wanna talk to, because he's thinking big.
He wants to levitate buildings.
I'm super curiousto know how all this works, but I really wantto see it in action.
[whirring] Oh, wow.
Oh, man, that is so cool.
There's a lotof resistance there.
Yeah, and you can actuallysee it bounce in midair.
[Dianna] Oh, wow.
[Greg Henderson]You should give it a try.
[laughter] Okay, here we go.
-[Greg] You got it.
[exclaims and laughs] And then it turns, so that's.
[exclaims] I promise you I'm not tryingto 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 ideafor this come about? As an architect, I've been working for most of my adult life on better ways to buildfor natural disasters.
[Dianna] Oh, everyone's familiarwith big earthquakeshere in the Bay Area.
If you want to separatea house or a structure from the earth for the durationof an earthquake, -what aboutan electromagnetic field?-Mm-hmm.
And so the idea was, if you can levitatea 50, 000-kilogram train, why not a house? Well, when you startto dive into the technology, you realizethe magnetic levitation trainsneed to be moving, and sometimes 100 miles an hour, before they actually levitate.
So, how do you levitatea stationary object? So I had the idea, “What ifthat train went in a circle?” -[Dianna] Mm-hmm.
-[Greg] Right? And then what if that trainwas the same lengthas the track? [whirring] [Dianna] I see.
The entire train is your system.
It's just a thingmoving in a circle.
And so wetake that concept and we shrink it down, and we get a hover engine.
And here, you can seefour of them.
each one of theseis an individual train.
Okay, so I thinkI have a good handleon how this technology works.
I'm gonna show youa 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 longerfor the magnet tofall through the tube.
Now, the reason why, is thatthe magnet has a magnetic field, and when that magnetic fieldmoves through the tube, it creates anotheropposing magnetic fieldthat pushes up, it repels the magnetand keeps itfrom falling as fast.
Which is similarto what's going onin the technology behind me.
There's moving magnetsin the bottom of the white box, and those createanother magnetic fieldin the copper sheet on the bottomwhich pushes up on the box.
-[Greg] So, how aboutan earthquake?-[Dianna] Earthquake.
That's really cool.
[Greg] So it turns out, if you want to levitatea 50, 000-kilogram house for, let's say, 90 seconds, or the duration of an earthquakelike we have here in California, the amount of energy requiredis stored in onlyfive car batteries.
The challenge is gettingit out very, very quickly.
[Rick] It's cool tech, but the engine in that hoverbox means 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 futureof magnetic levitation, the possibilitiesare almost limitless.
We can already buy levitating light bulbs, phone chargers, record players.
But in the near future, we could even have floatingjoysticks for fighter pilots where the knobs and buttonshover in midair.
But if we lookeven further ahead, the possibilities forthis tech get really bold.
Take the Hyperloop, the pet project ofbillionaire entrepreneursand fringe scientists.
Forget the maglev train.
They want to use magneticlevitation to transportcapsules of people through depressurized tubesat speeds of up to700 miles an hour.
This would be the world'smost 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 key to 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 practicalexperiment to show you, which is levitation.
Genuine levitation? Genuine levitation.
See you in a bit.
[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 coldas we can possibly get it.
[steam hissing] [Rick] So how coldare we talking, then? [Colin] Proper cold.
I'll tell you what, I'll show you.
So I've got an orange here.
[Rick] At around minus 200 degrees Celsius, the liquid nitrogenfreezes the orange in seconds.
-Right, there's a hammer.
-Oh, very good.
I thought you'dlike this bit.
Go for it, chap.
Oh! [laughing] That's really good.
[Colin] Right, back in you go.
So are thesesuper-strong magnets? [Colin] Yeah, they're neodymium ones.
Don't get your keysor your phone or anythingnext to it.
-It'll get rid of yourWhatsApp 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 whatwe'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 superconductor and it demonstrates a strange scientific principle that, 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 likeit's fed up of levitating now.
-But for a moment there.
-[Colin] I know.
[Rick] So we get stable magnetic levitation without the moving parts that ruled out the hoverbox.
[Rick] So hang on.
I wanna see it goall the way around the track.
Yeah, we need to keepit colder for longer.
So I've got a little plan.
We've got thislittle thing here, look.
And then we're gonna putour superconductorin here to keep it cold.
Then hopefully that shouldgive us a bit morethan a few seconds.
Right, then, Mr.
[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.
That is so cool.
Oh, come on.
[laughs] It's amazing.
[Rick] What? This is exactlywhat we're after.
-This is levitation.
No moving parts, no mechanical trickery.
So if we make youa bit smaller, 'cause, you know, you are a giant.
-Of all the peopleto try and get to levitate.
[laughs] I know, I know.
[laughs] If we couldget you in there.
The problem isjust scaling up, isn't it? Okay.
Well, whileyou folk figure outhow to upsize that track, I want to talkabout superconductors.
Clearly, they're your best betto actually get off the ground, but they're also oneof the coolest materialson the planet.
What's so uniqueabout these is they havezero electrical resistance.
This means thatan electric current can move througha superconductor without slowing down and barely leakingany energy away, meaning, it could gopretty much forever.
There's only one problem, the vast majorityof superconductors only really workat a temperature of aroundminus 200 degrees Celsius.
So scientists are ona multi-million-pound quest in order to builda superconductor that would workat room temperatures.
And if or ratherwhen that happens, we could have pretty muchlevitating 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 hoverboard that works in just the same way as our little boat, but has 32 individual superconductors inside.
That should make it over 200 times stronger than our mini version.
You can feel the bumps.
[Rick] With the help of 240 liters of liquid nitrogen and a team of technicians to scale things up, it might just be powerful enough to 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 wantto try and get on thishoverboard and levitate.
I think everyone wantsto levitate on this hoverboard.
-'Course they do!-[laughs] Any chance? I reckon so.
I thinkwe can get you there.
-[laughs] 100% is all about the balance.
A lot of it is to dowith your foot positioningon the board.
So, nice, wide stance.
-Nice, wide stance always helps.
And you wanna keepyour shouldersnice and straight.
And then what am I doingwith my hands? Just sort of.
Your hands can dowhatever you wanna do.
That's where the style comes in.
I imagine whatmy hands are gonna be doingis being alert.
-To catch my fall.
[Rick] Meanwhile, sorting out a track for me to levitate above is Colin's job.
Now, remember outside the shed, we had a massive magnetic track? Well, we have took thatto the next level.
We have set upa giant magnetic track.
Now, this is a section, and this is like a rowof super-powerful magnets, like, super-powerful ones.
To demonstratehow powerful this is, here's a little washer, just a normal washer.
If I put this in my handand then just hover itover the track.
As I bring it down, it'll stand it up.
And what's that? That's aboutfour inches away from the track and I'm feelingthe force of it pulling.
Now, if this washerwas a thick piece of metaland I put my hand in there, it would literallyjust crush it.
We've had to be careful whenwe put this track together, because if the two bitsflip together and somebody's in between them, they're gonna die.
So we do notwant that to happen.
So, Rick, get betterat skateboarding.
Don't hurt yourself.
[all exclaim] [Rick] Colin, you've delivered.
Biggest magnetic trackI could get you.
I asked you to make it big.
You've made it big.
[Colin] The pressure'son you now, boy.
[Rick] It is a bit, isn't it? So.
am I gonna bestanding on some sortof 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.
-It's a hoverboard.
This was developed by Lexus.
This is like the real deal.
Oliver here designed it.
-[Rick] Hello, Oliver.
-Okay, there are two packsof superconductors.
And then we have two chambers where we fill inthe liquid nitrogen.
Right, shall we fill her up? -Oh, I like all this.
-This is good, isn't it? It's like being inan '80s music video.
What temperature will that coolthe superconductors down to? [Oliver] About minus200 centigrade.
[Rick] That's cold.
I don't remember Marty McFlyhaving 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.
[Colin] Right, come on! I'm gonna do it.
I feel quite nervous.
-[sighs] Okay, okay.
-Right then, Rick.
-[Rianne] Remember ourskate lesson.
You've got it.
[Rick] I feel likeI've dreamt about this.
[Colin] Was I therein the dream as well? No, you weren't, Colin.
It was just meand I was levitating.
-[Colin laughing]-Here we go.
let go, mate.
[Colin] I'm not holding you.
You're holding me.
I'm just stood here.
[Rick] I think.
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 nottouching the floor.
Give me a little pushand see what happens.
[nervously] Off he goes.
Off he goes! -[Colin] You got it?-Sort of.
-[all laugh and exclaim]-Oh, my God.
Are we gettingto the end of the ramp? [Colin] Nearly.
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] Time to see what a professional can do.
Welcome to the future.
[Rick] Clearly, Rianne's a natural.
Let's see how she handles Colin's jump.
-Come on, Rianne.
[all cheer] Whoo! [Rick] Yes! -[all cheering]-Oh.
[Colin] That is cool.
[sing-song] Here goes nothing.
I can't believe it.
Rick wantedto defy gravity, and he has.
-There we go.
There we go.
Yes! [laughter] Take that, Earth.
You did it, Rick.
You worked with the laws of physicsand you were able to levitate.
-Whoo, here we go.
-[Ines] You got this.
I really wish I was there to celebrate with you.
-Oh, my gosh!Ooh.
-There we go.
That was incredible.
Oh, my gosh.
It's so smooth.
And, hey, maybe in the future, it will be you ridinga hoverboard around town.
-[Rick] Good!-[Colin] There we are.
There we are.
I feel like I've tickedsomething off a bucket listI haven't even written yet.
This is Back to the Future, this is like dreams come true.
I'm doing it! I'm levitating! We did it.
Through science, we beat gravity.
I've had a very good day.
-Pleased to hear that, Colin.
So have I.
-[all laugh] [Rick] We hope you enjoyedThe Edge of Science.
To see more original shows, please click on the bottom right of the screen.