Frogs Levitate in Strong Magnetic Field

Some things like iron nails are known for their magnetic properties, but why should frogs levitate in a magnetic field? The trick is to get the magnetic field right – you can’t just use any old bar magnet to make a frog levitate.

Frogs, like everything around and inside us, are made up of millions and billions of atoms. Each of these atoms contains electrons that whizz around a central nucleus, but when atoms are in a magnetic field, the electrons shift their orbits slightly. These shifts give the atoms their own magnetic field so when a frog is put in a very strong magnetic field, it is essentially made up of lots of tiny magnets. And there’s nothing special about frogs. All materials – including strawberries, water and gold – are ‘diamagnetic’ to some extent, but some are more convenient to levitate than others.

Frogs are convenient not only because they have a high water content, which is a good diamagnetic material, but also because they fit easily inside a tube-shaped Bitter electromagnet. Bitter electromagnets use a very large electric current to create an extremely strong magnetic field which magnetises the frog in such a way that its magnetisation is in the opposite direction to the applied field. This means that the magnetised frog is pushed up from a region of high magnetic field into one of lower field, and levitates.

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