Gravity kills. Which is why we are so celebratory about scientists finding a chink in its armour and discovering that there is a way in which we can escape gravity. Physicists at the St Andrews University in London have announced that they can “create incredible levitation effects”. At the core of this breakthrough is the Casimir force that takes a note or two from the gecko’s ability to stick to a surface. Quite obviously, the trick to get an anti-gravity situation is to reverse the gecko’s model — in other words, the ability to repel, rather than to create, a suction mechanism. And that’s where our brainy frockwallas have found a possible solution: think small. Really small.
Nanotechnology entails landscapes on the atomic and sub-atomic levels. In other words, the spoiler for trying out anti-grav stuff — friction — is minimal. The smart scientists have, thus, found out how to work on this tiny scale where the vacuum remains — but instead of cohesion there’s repulsion. It’s too early to say whether this can be ‘upsized’ to macro-levels. But once micro-objects have been made to float the macro-landscape, we should be on our way.
Which, of course, doesn’t mean that the day jobs of people like the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi — and his patented Transcendental Meditation that allows people to float a few inches — are at stake. Humans, thankfully for the Maharishi franchise and illusionists, such as the much-regaled David Blaine, need not worry. But for the rest of us, who are really, really looking forward to anti-gravity cars that can zip across Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore traffic, we just have to wait just a bit for the micro to get macro. Almost sounds like an economist’s dilemma, doesn’t it?