back to article Boffins flick Quantum vacuum switch from suck to blow

Cartoon-loving boffins from University of St Andrews believe they have found a way to reverse the "Casimir force" which causes really small things to stick to each other. This has been widely written up, usually with the word "levitation" in the headline. The University press release notes that: "Professor Ulf Leonhardt and …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ..ahahahah... :'D

    Best article in... AGES, though I did struggle not to laugh loudly (being in an office'n'all).

    I (heart) geckos. Geckoes? Geckii? Gah! I'm going to start growing'em.

  2. Paul


    "Hover ships and raygun gloves still not really on the drawing board."

    Im sure it wont be long befor the US DoD is working on them to go along with there Vomit ray and human Microwave gun.

  3. Colin Guthrie

    Attack of the Lizard Army

    I'm sure this lacks something in the scientific background but that, Lewis, was a very entertaining read!

  4. Derek Foley

    Mattell Hoverboards 'R'us....

    Perhaps the Back to the Future 2 hoverboard that we all loved the concept of really isnt so implausible as it once seemed - Aussuming you dont destroy the universe riding it!

  5. Ian Rogers

    Ha ha, now we've got you reading

    This reminds me of the Britney Spears Physics page

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lewis gets better all the time

    Lewis, your writing style is progressing magnificently. Thank you for a very funny article.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Finally a use for David Beckham

    Seems that this effects reliance on golden balls will actually make the guy scientifically interesting, do we have to make him especially thin in the process too ??

    Posted Anon as I dislike admitting to knowing his nick name

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    The Potential for Lizard Abuse

    This is where we get the first indication that the ROTM is actually our lizard overlords who, having seen the future, are determined to do what it takes to preserve their little gecko cousins - including wiping us out with speed-crazed Renaults if that's what's needed.

    Thanks for the warning, Lewis. Now, where is my pickaxe ? I have to start digging that underground bunker in my back yard. Maybe I'll also raise a few geckos, just to prove that I didn't harm them.

  9. amanfromMars Silver badge


    "Lewis, your writing style is progressing magnificently. Thank you for a very funny article."

    I considered it probing and deeply thoughtful too with a plethora of AVenues.

    "..but in the meantime the potential for lizard abuse would be horrific." Or terrific for wizard lizard potential.

    "Clearly, this [is not true] - "

    Is truly Ambiguous which would cause a Doubt easily Dismissed as IT was Created to Shield the Truth.

    "The energy of the quantum vacuum, the 'zero-point energy,' is infinite according to our present theories."...... and has AI Quonnection been Established Already, All Ready? A 21CNetwork Covert Steganographic Op?

    Or is that Future Use Today?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Geckos in Scotland

    Global warming gone mad.

  11. Matthew Barker

    Read The Register, change your pants

    I laughed so hard, I became momentarily incontinent. Must've been that gecko saute I had for dinner. So maybe those feet really were "floating in oil".



  12. Craig Leeds

    Where's the IT angle?

    Only kidin'

    Fantastic article, I can't wait for my flying Gecko-Car

  13. Ian Ferguson


    I stuck live geckoes to my hands and feet years ago, in the hopes of becoming a gecko-powered spiderman (geckoman?). The problem is, I've been sitting in the same position ever since, permanently stuck to the ground. Maybe this is the answer I'm looking for? Please could somebody ask these boffins to install polarity-reversing switches (aka any given Star Trek episode) on the backs of my geckoes, then I'll be able to climb buildings AND hover.

  14. Phil Rigby

    Car insurance

    For all the American readers, should make for some more amusing Geico insurance ads - a cockney flying gecko ( for the Brits and yeah in the tv ads he's got a Cockney accent)

  15. peter Silver badge

    Levitating Geckos scientifically justified... says that Van der Waals forces are the maths-lite version of the Casimir Effect - i.e. the one that doesn't require you to push your brain through a colander. (I'm paraphrasing.) Even Wikipedia is prepared to say that - well almost.

    Which leads me to conclude that levitating lizards are perfectly scientifically justifiable. But if you have any doubts, talk it over with your local lizard army recruiting rep. ;)

  16. Daniel Timms

    Not enough...

    ...Spaceballs fans to recognise the quote on the strap line? Shocking! (or just no one else wants to admit to it?)

  17. Dillon Pyron

    Zero Point Modules

    Stargate got it right!

  18. brainwrong


    Maybe you could write something interesting or informative instead of this nonsense.

  19. Michael


    I, for one, welcome our new frictionless, air-skating overlords!

  20. Morely Dotes

    Thanks for an interesting and informative article

    I can see the obvious IT angle, as well; if I could get frictionless sleeve bearings on my CPU cooler fans, I wouldn't have to replace them every few years.

  21. Rick Damiani

    On a more serious note

    Did anyone reading the article notice that this effect depends on a material with a negative refractive index? A material with a negative refractive index is one where light moves *faster* than it does in a vacuum. Not much of that to be found laying about, I'm afraid.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Did anyone reading the article notice that this effect depends on a material with a negative refractive index? A material with a negative refractive index is one where light moves *faster* than it does in a vacuum. Not much of that to be found laying about, I'm afraid."

    Not much ... but there would seem to be some.

  23. Mr Larrington


    Over in The Theme Park we have long been advocates of Better Living by Hover-Yurt. I am most gratified to see research that may culminate in the Hover-Yurt becoming a reality.

    Mr Larrington

  24. Sergei Andropov

    Superb article

    A fascinating subject, lucidly explained, and accompanied by side-splitting humor... You don't see that every day.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what no mega-maid??

    What a shame, a good articale missed out on being great, due to a lack of further SpaceBalls related humour, not even a reference to mega-maid.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    vacuum not empty?

    "Empty space is not empty, but is filled with the quantum vacuum"

    I actually proved this at the age of 5 in the science museum. They had an electric bell (these were pretty much state of the art electrickery at the time) in a glass jar connected to a vacuum pump. One of the obligatory push buttons on the cabinet pumped the air out of of the jar; pressing the bell push demonstrated that nobody can hear you scream in the science museum.

    At that point people started mumbling stuff about vacuuii (or doesn't vacuum decline?).

    Q. what's a vacuum. A. it's nothing.

    Q. what's in the jar? A. a vacuum.

    Killer reply: so there's something in the jar.


  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I am the Supreme Galactic Gecko Overlord Gerri. I take great offense to your flagrant lack of respect for Gecko rights.

    If you Human Earthies keep messing with the quantum vacuum zero-point energy, you may open up a Kerr loop temporal rift in the local space-time contiuum which would swallow the Earth.

    On second thoughts we hope you do, it'll save us invading Earth, keep up the good work.

  28. Steve B

    Vacuum not exactly overwelmingly obvious

    If this only works in a vacuum, I'm afraid the commercial implications are underwelming as I have forgotten the last time I saw one.

  29. Brutus

    Lazy Bugger

    @Steve B - so I guess you don't help with the housework, then? :-)

  30. Master Baker

    Great Posibilities

    .. for some hot action... Gecko Hover-porn coming to a screen near you...

  31. Alain Moran


    "Theoretical physicists at the University of St Andrews",14834,en.html

    "according to calculations done by physicists in the UK. Ulf Leonhardt and Thomas Philbin of the University of St Andrews reckon that the repulsive force may even be strong enough to levitate a tiny mirror"

    So they haven't actually done this, they have just worked out a way to make the equations say it can be done ... shame.

  32. Derek

    Been around for a while

  33. Steve Evans

    S*d the Geckos

    Time to make a Zeee Peeee Emmmm, then dig up a stargate!

    Actually the idea of being able to remove this property from Gecko feet and then watch the little buggers trying to climb things amused me too.

  34. Damian Gabriel Moran

    does this my dream...

    of an ice cream repelling bowl is a step closer, no more having to put my face into the bowl to get those scrapings of melted sweet!!

  35. jonathan keith

    Never mind geckos...

    All you need is a buttered cat

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