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Serial woo-meister levitator Daniel Dunglas Home is here depicted amazing a number of gentlemen in his parlour with his powers to cause things to rise.
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Levitation refers to raising an object against the force of gravity in such a way that it remains suspended without any physical contact with any form of floor or object resting on a floor.[note 1] It is quite possible to do this without leaving the realm of physics, the most usual case being magnetic levitation, where the force of magnetism is used for this purpose. It is also functionally identical to hovering in flight,Wikipedia which can be done by helicopters and hummingbirds, though the term "levitation" is practically never used in these cases.[note 2]

In terms of pseudoscience, levitation refers to the ability to manage this raising by the power of the human mind (e.g. psychokinesis). This has never been demonstrated — much less repeated — under controlled conditions and is consequently a pseudoscience.

From fiction to non-fiction[edit]

Earnshaw's theoremWikipedia is a well-established theory stating that paramagnetic materialsWikipedia cannot levitate in mid-air in a static environment. It was considered for a long time that magnetic-based levitation was impossible, until in 1984; the spin-stabilized magnetic levitationWikipedia top was patented by Roy M. Harrigan.Wikipedia[1][2] The theorum wasn't wrong, according to Theodore Gray:[2]

It turns out that Earnshaw's theorem is absolutely correct, but it has a couple of loopholes […] It turns out that precession (the rotation of a spinning object’s axis of spin) creates an island of genuine stability in a way that does not violate Earnshaw's theorem, but that went completely unpredicted by physicists for more than a century.

Physicists were shocked to find that levitation was a reality, all because of a misinterpretation of the theorem. The second loophole involved diamagnetism:Wikipedia[2]

His theorem only applies to ferromagnetism, the common north/south pole type of magnetism found in most magnets. Diamagnetism is a purely repulsive magnetic force exhibited to varying degrees by all materials in the presence of a magnetic field. Simply drop a chip of graphite, for example, onto a block of magnets and it will float in midair forever.

Harrigan's patent resulted in the creation of a toy called the Levitron,Wikipedia one variety of which can be seen here:

Fake levitation[edit]

Stage Magic[edit]

Levitation has been a long-standing element of stage magic, with various tricks being based on objects and people seemingly defying gravity. In reality, these tricks use things like strings or metal poles[3] to make something look like it's floating.

Religious views[edit]


Solomon's Carpet is an extra-Biblical Hebrew legend that King Solomon had a flying carpet that was 60 miles long by 60 miles wide.[4] Magic carpetWikipedia legends have also appeared in Arabian (One Thousand and One Nights) and Russian folklore.


See the main article on this topic: Christianity

Jesus provides the most well-known case of levitation in Christianity by walking on water to his disciples.[note 3] He is also mistaken for a spirit at first, which gives another example of a levitating creature in Christianity.[5]

More specifically, Catholicism considers levitation to be a symptom of possession by demons, and cause for exorcism.[6] Except when Jesus or the saints did it, presumably.


Solomon's carpet also appears in Qur'an 21:81 and Qur'an 34:12 according to Sunni Qur'an commentator Tafsir Ibn Kathir.[7]


See the main article on this topic: Yogic flying




See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Physical contact with air or other forms of "invisible" matter that do not support weight (i.e. gases)Wikipedia is technically allowed, but anything that is naturally light enough to not be receptive enough to gravity to require some special effort to remain out of contact with a floor (again, mainly gases) is generally not said to be "levitating".
  2. "Flight" and "levitation" tend to be considered very different things, even if they are functionally mostly-identical (e.g. something denser than air managing to suspend itself above the ground in defiance of gravity). While the exact distinction is dependent on who you ask and what you're talking about, the dividing line tends to be that flight involves exerting clear and continuous physical effort (which can include manipulating or interacting with air through purely-physical means) to remain above the ground, such as the beating of wingsWikipedia (as in birds, bats, dragons, and insects), the expulsion of energized gases (as in airplanes and rockets), or the rapid rotation of blades or other extensions (as in helicopters), while levitation involves being suspended in midair by some sort of non-physical (or apparently non-physical or matter-transcendent) force such as magnetism, magic, psychokinesis, or anti-gravity.
  3. This technically was not levitation per se, since Jesus was still making physical contact with the surface of the water (and water, unlike air, generally supports a human's weight well enough for them to float at or near its surface). What makes this similar to levitation is that the surface tension of water is not strong enough to support a human's weight to the degree required to stand on it without sinking at all.


  1. Levitation device US patent #4382245
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Ignorance = Maglev = Bliss: For 150 years scientists believed that stable magnetic levitation was impossible. Then Roy Harrigan came along. by Theodore Gray February 1, 2004. "This spinning top, which hovers above a magnetic base, was patented in 1983 by a Vermonter named Roy Harrigan."
  3. The Levitating Woman – Stage Trick Revealed. Rebel Magic.
  4. Solomon: Solomon's Carpet by Emil G. Hirsch et al. (1906) Jewish Encyclopedia.
  5. See Matthew 14:22-33.
  6. Demonic Possession & Oppression; Exorcism: Roman Catholic beliefs & practices Religious Tolerance
  7. Fables and Legends of the Quran: Solomon’s Flying Carpet by Sam Shamoun
  8. www.physics.org/facts/frog-really.asp