Levitating in a Fluid
Strong magnetic fields suspend two bismuth spheres in a fluid, mimicking the weightlessness of space. Finely crushed pieces of bismuth can be seen flowing in streaks around the two spheres.
Image Credit: R. J. A. Hill/University of Nottingham/PRL
June 14, 2013
Without gravity, seemingly mundane experiments on Earth can become mesmerizing — and that's especially true for fluid dynamics.
While scientists experiment with fluids in microgravity on the International Space Station, science in space comes at a hefty cost. A little creativity, however, has allowed scientists to re-create the weightlessness of space on Earth.
H.A. Pacheco-Martinez and colleagues from the University of Nottingham used strong magnetic fields to suspend small spheres of bismuth in a fluid, as seen in the image above. After that, they shook things up — literally.
When they shook the suspended spheres, they attracted one another. Shaking above a critical frequency even caused the two spheres to orbit each other like a binary star system. Now that's how you bring space down to Earth.