The Best Levitating Chemical Reaction Vid You’ll See Today

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 18 2013 10:51 AM

The Best Levitating Chemical Reaction Vid You’ll See Today

Remember how certain frequencies arrange sand into mind-boggling geometric patterns? Well, now scientists are using acoustic waves to levitate substances and cause midair chemical reactions—further proof that sound is a force to be reckoned with. (As if we needed more evidence.)

And because scientists love us and want us to be happy, they’ve recorded a levitating chemical reaction between sodium and water and set it to a piece of Johann Strauss. And it is glorious.


Now for the technical details. There are several reasons researchers would want to use acoustics to make particles dance. (No, hoverboards are not one of them.) For one, it allows them to study chemical reactions in a more free state—that is, not inhibited by contact with a surface. Previously, this kind of reaction would only be possible through the use of magnets (which of course limits you to materials that are magnetic) or immiscible liquids (those that are not easily mixed, like oil and water). By levitating substances with acoustic waves, scientists are free to experiment with vastly more substances—like toothpicks and instant coffee!

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Jason Bittel serves up science for picky eaters on his website, He lives in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter.



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.