A substance that is diamagnetic repels a magnetic field, and this quantum mechanical effect occurs in all materials, depending on the strength of the magnetic field. Physicist Andre Geim proved this point in 1997 when his research led to a demonstration of diamagnetic levitation of water and, more amusingly, levitation of a live frog.
Because water is predominantly diamagnetic, Geim was able to levitate water droplets using a very strong magnetic field, typically in the range of 16 teslas. He went on to demonstrate the universality of this result, levitating different live animals, including a grasshopper and a mouse.
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a levitating frog:
- Geim won the Ig Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000 for his diagmagnetic research -- including the floating frog, which was not harmed. “In my experience, if people don’t have a sense of humor, they are usually not very good scientists either,” he said. Geim would later win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for his research on graphene.
- The image of the flying frog made the rounds after photos appeared in the April 1997 issue of Physics World. Many assumed it was an April Fools’ Day joke.
- Prior to Geim’s research, many believed that water’s magnetism, billions of times weaker than that of iron, was not strong enough to counter gravity.