Inverted Gravity Experiment Sees Toy Boat Float Upside Down

Down is the new up in this very 2020 physics experiment at ESPCI Paris.
Chris Young

Levitating fluids are quite impressive. But how about a levitating fluid that seemingly makes objects on its underside float upside down like it has its own gravitational force strong enough to attract nearby objects?

That's what a group of scientists has achieved with a new physics experiment that The New York Times has described as "seemingly impossible."


As a cursory look at the news, or social media, these days makes one feel like up might really be down and vice versa, we can't help feeling that this experiment really is a sign of the times.

The impressive display was put together by Emmanuel Fort, professor at ESPCI Paris, and a group of colleagues.

Fort, who was also co-author of a paper, published in the journal Natureabout the project, told The New York Times"Everything worked well. And I’m still amazed by the results."

In order to create the levitation and gravity effect — which can be seen in the video below — the team utilized vibrations, cycling 100 times a second, on a mixture of glycerol and silicon oil. This caused the substance, which is thicker than water, to be suspended over an air cushion made up of the vibrations — giving the "levitation" effect.

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The truly surprising thing about the experiment, however, is the fact that, as the pocket of air underneath the liquid is denser, an object below it ends up being pushed upwards into the levitating liquid.

"People say it’s like the scene in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ when the boat floats upside down," Fort told The Guardian. "It’s counterintuitive. It gets people talking about science fiction and fantasy and that is very nice."

The team says their experiment actually has several potential use cases: for example, it could allow gases to be suspended in fluids for industrial purposes, such as for waste-water treatment or mineral processing. It looks like it's a magic trick that's more than just an illusion.

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