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‘Back to the Future’ Style Hoverboard May Finally Become a Reality

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I remember watching Back to the Future and thinking how sweet it would be if the hoverboard that Michael J. Fox rode through the streets actually existed. Thanks to some brainiac scientists, that day may finally be here.

To be honest, I was never a “skater”. As a matter of fact, I was one of the guys who made fun of skaters for their baggy clothes and their shaggy-haired look. Maybe I was just jealous that they could do something I never could and making fun of them for being “different” was my way of coping with that fact. But that’s another subject for another time with someone who specializes in the science of the human psyche.

Back to the point, in the few times I’ve tried to ride a skateboard, it has been a miserable failure. I couldn’t keep my balance and I couldn’t stop without just falling down. If I were to guess how I would fare on a hoverboard, I would assume that it would result in scraped skin and a broken appendage somewhere on my body. But it wouldn’t stop me from at least trying it because I’m a guy and we’ve been known to do stupid things that we know could result in bodily harm from time to time.

Here’s how this thing works according to the blog, jtotheizzo.tumblr.com, a blog run by PhD student and self-described “man-about-town”, Joe Hanson:

What you start with is an inert disc, in this case a crystal sapphire wafer. That wafer is then coated with a superconductor called yttrium barium copper oxide. When superconductors get very cold (like liquid nitrogen cold) they conduct electricity with no loss of energy, which normal conducting materials like copper can’t do.

Superconductors hate magnetic fields (when cold enough), and normally would just repel the magnetic force and float in a wobbly fashion. But because the superconductor is so thin in this case, tiny imperfections allow some magnetic forces through. These little magnetic channels are called flux tubes…The flux tubes cause the magnetic field to be “locked” in all three dimensions, which is why the disk remains in whatever position it starts in, levitating around the magnets.

Hey, I didn’t say it was simple. It is quantum physics after all. Honestly, I don’t care how they do it, just the fact that they’re able to make it happen is pretty awesome as far as I’m concerned. Take a look at the video below to see the above explanation in action

This begs the question, with this new technology, how far away are we from this taking place:

Source: jtotheizzo.tumblr.com

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