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Video wows with quantum levitation

Quantum physics is the mind-bending study of matter and energy at its smallest scales. It can be difficult to grasp, no doubt. But this video of a smoking cold disk that appears to float in midair just might make you try.

The trick works due to something called quantum levitation, explain the scientists from Tel Aviv University in Israel. And they hope you'll ask: what's that?

The apparently floating disk is a sapphire crystal that has been coated with a very thin layer of ceramic material called yttrium barium copper oxide. At room temperature, it has no interesting magnetic or electrical properties, the group explains.

However, when cooled below minus 301 degrees F, it becomes a superconductor, which means it conducts electricity without resistance. No energy is lost. 

Now, it turns out that superconductors and magnetic fields don't play nice with each other. Usually, the superconductor will expel the magnetic field, something called the Meissner effect. But when the superconductor is really thin, such as the one in this video, the magnetic field penetrates.

Of course, since we are talking about quantum physics here, it does so in a strange way. It creates flux tubes. These tubes, in turn, trap the superconductor in midair. The result is called quantum locking, that is the superconductor is locked in space.

For more information, watch this video and the check out the explanation over at the researcher's website. Afterwards, you might feel that quantum physics isn't all that difficult to grasp.

More information on quantum physics:

The video is courtesy of the Association of Science — Technology Centers.

John Roach is a contributing writer for