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Watch Japan make stuff float using the magic of sound

2:10 PM on 01.04.2014

Josh Tolentino

Managing Editor

What is this dark sorcery?!

Well, "magic" is hardly the right word for it, since there's some pretty solid science behind these Japanese scientists' ability to make things float in thin air, but at first glance it's pretty hard not to get all giddy about it.

Using a technique called Three-Dimensional Mid-Air Acoustic Manipulation, the team expanded on the well-known use of "standing acoustic waves" to trap light objects between waves of constant ultrasonic sound. In this case their innovation is in building a four-sided chamber lined with phased arrays, allowing not only for levitation against gravity, but also movement of levitated objects by manipulating the waves in different directions, shifting the "focus point" the objects are trapped in.

This thing is super cool. That said, it's clear that the practical applications for it are a bit limited at present. Only very light, small objects are shown being lifted, and obviously getting them up and moving requires they be in the fancy box at all times. But still, you can crank that thing up, toss a penny in, and wave your hands like you've got special powers (or a severe case of "chuunibyou"). Totally worth it, I say.

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