You know those glowing magic fingers you can buy for a few dollars to "amaze your friends" with? So do scientists, and they would not be seen dead using one of those. Luckily, they don't need to, because they have already made the very concept of photoluminescence their bitch. Here, Johnny Glowfinger, have a goddamn kitten that glows in the dark:
Or Lex has come up with the most adorable way to kill Superman yet.
Yes, that's a real animal, and yes, we have taken millions of years of evolution that created this nocturnal animal and thrown it all out of the window because we wanted to make it shine. In science's defense, this is not just to make that kitty look cool -- the glow is a product of a gene splice that helps researchers study and fight feline AIDS. It's not all they're doing at the make-stuff-glow laboratories, either: Among other things, scientists are also creating plants that they hope to use as streetlights and glowing rabbits that may one day be used as biological medicine factories.
"What do you say now, Mr. You-can't-water-a-plant-with-nothing-but-Mountain-Dew?"
Making plants glow is actually surprisingly easy: Inject some fluorescent dye, stick the plant under an ultraviolet light, and bam! Glow-in-the-dark flowers.
Anne and Todd Helmenstine
Just don't try to impress any bioluminescent women with a lame ol' glowing carnation.
Of course, hardcore scientists prefer to create their nightlights with less luminescent injections and more gene tinkerin'. A few natural bioluminescence genes from a jellyfish in mammal DNA creates a glowing cat surprisingly easily. And while it may seem like a pretty strange thing to do, it's kind of hard to be against something that aims to cure cat AIDS, which is the most depressing freaking thing we've heard all week.
Levitation is probably the most impressive of magic tricks, which is why it's the go-to bit for everyone from David Blaine to Yoda. There are tons of ways to perform the trick, from wires to Balducci levitation to Criss Angel's ridiculous, yet surprisingly effective fake foot and a box version. The scientific variation on the theme seems equally easy to figure out: It's magnets, right? Everyone knows you can make things levitate with magnets. That's literally what the term "maglev" means, for crying out loud.
And then we see this goddamn thing, tilted in a way that the magnet it's floating above could never cause:
Via Quantum Experience
Then there's this little object, just calmly flying circles under a table like a miniature UFO, rebelling against the pull of the Earth so hard that it's painting graffiti on the ground as it goes:
North Museum of Natural History & Science
"Fuuuuuckkkkk yoooooouuuu, Baaaaannnnkssssyyy!"
And finally, here is some totally non-magnetic liquid, just floating around like it ain't no thing:
Argonne National Laboratory
Meanwhile, you can't eat a meal without turning your shirt into a Jackson Pollock ripoff.
Those tilted and hanging objects are indeed made possible by magnets, but with a quantum twist. Quantum levitation is achieved when scientists cover an object with a thin layer of a superconductor that has been cooled with liquid nitrogen (which is why the thing in that gif is fuming and staining the ground). Superconductors naturally bend the magnetic field around them, but if the layer is thin enough, it lets some magnetism through -- enough to lock it in a state of magnetic levitation, while being allowed to move with relative freedom.
That levitating liquid, on the other hand, is the product of a non-magnetic technique called acoustic levitation. Align two loudspeakers vertically on top of each other, and when tuned up to the proper frequencies, they create a standing wave of sound between them. The sound waves from above and below cancel each other out, letting light objects just ride that sweet wave midair.
"Why do I suddenly want to play Pac-Man?"
Sadly, the minimum sound levels required for acoustic levitation are around 160 decibels, at a pitch that is as high as a dog whistle. Levitating bigger objects requires significantly louder sounds, so for now, the method is limited to floating lightweight stuff like water drops and toothpicks. Still, it's a beginning: All we need to do now is develop technology that enables us to withstand intense acoustic vibrations without instantly exploding in a mess of guts and shattered bone, and we'll finally be able to say goodbye to walking forever.
Meanwhile, here's a cool video of water and sodium locked in a levitating waltz:
"Beat this shit, David Blaine." -Science
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Related Reading: Modern science has also made quite a bit of black magic possible, including some straight up alchemy. Oh, and did you know water can explode all on its own? Well it can. For a scientific explanation of the tricks that freaked you out as a kid, read on.