Levitation Made Easy

Bristol student in the running for short film prize

A Bristol student’s short film on Quantum Locking has made it into the longlist of The Guardian’s Very Short Film Award.

Entitled ‘Superconductivity’, the film is the creation of Physics Masters student Christian Foss. Though just one minute long, it demonstrates how quantum locking can use magnetic fields to make objects levitate.

Last year, the Guardian invited students to enter its competition with a 60-second film introducing a new topic.  Most entrants, like Foss, picked one from within their degree.

“Quantum Locking is one of the few interesting things in physics, and it can be shown on camera pretty well,” he explains.

“Hopefully, it will be seen and appreciated by science students and non-science students alike.  It’s a fun topic, and the possible uses of Superconductivity are relevant to everyone.”

As for the filmmaking, Foss reveals, “I’ve always been into photography.  And as it’s only a minute long, it wasn’t too much work.

“It was pretty simple: I spent two days filming in Tyndall Avenue – the Physics department kindly let me use a lecture theatre.

“I put my camera on a skateboard at one point to get a better-looking shot.”

The prize of £9000 towards tuition fees was definitely a big motivating factor, and Foss admits that filmmaking isn’t a career path he wants to pursue – he’s got a city job lined up for when he graduates this year.

So how does Quantum Locking work?

As Foss explains in the video, accompanied by some visually impressive demos and sound effects, you first freeze a material to turn it into a superconductor, and then place it in a magnetic field.  When you move the magnet, the superconductor moves too.

This is already used for some levitating trains – but the filmmaker suggests it might also prove useful for Marty McFly from cult film Back To The Future.

Despite the brilliance of the experiment, and The Tab‘s unshakable belief that practising levitation could be useful for attracting a fanbase, Foss advises, “I’m not sure a Physics experiment would be the best way to impress a girl.”

Christian needs your vote!  Click here to watch the final 12 and vote for ‘Superconductivity’ to get Christian into the top 4.