Rising Force: The Magic of Magnetic Levitation

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Overview

From Peter Pan to Harry Potter, from David Copperfield to levitating toys, there is magic in conquering gravity. In this first-ever popular introduction to “maglev”— the use of magnetic forces to overcome gravity and friction—James D. Livingston takes lay readers on a journey of discovery, from basic concepts to today’s most thrilling applications.

The tour begins with examples of our historical fascination with levitation, both real and fake. At the next stop, Livingston introduces readers to the components of maglev: gravitational and magnetic forces in the universe, force fields, diamagnetism and stabilization, superdiamagnetism and supercurrents, maglev nanotechnology, and more. He explores the development of the superconductors that are making large-scale levitation devices possible, and the use of magnetic bearings in products ranging from implanted blood pumps to wind turbines, integrated circuit fabrication, and centrifuges to enrich uranium. In the last chapters, we arrive at the science behind maglev transportation systems, such as Chinese trains that travel 250 miles per hour without touching the tracks.

Packed with fascinating anecdotes about the colorful personalities who have “fought friction by fighting gravity,” the book maintains accuracy throughout while it entertains and informs technical and nontechnical readers alike. With so many new applications for magnetic levitation on the horizon, Rising Force is sure to retain its own magic for years to come.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this follow-up to his earlier book on magnets, former GE physicist and MIT lecturer Livingston (Driving Force) explains the science and mysteries of magnetic levitation, or "maglev." The ability of like poles of magnets to repel each other has led to the development of popular toys, such as the Levitron, and widely publicized stunts, such as levitating a frog ("diamagnetic") or a person (mildly magnetic). Magnev turns out to have more important applications—from wind turbines on the roof of actor Ed Begley Jr.'s house, to new techniques for minimally invasive surgery, to heart pump replacements. Although eddy currents and superconductors are important for modern-day feats of levitation, it was feedback systems that enabled engineers to apply maglev to larger bodies, such as trains. Livingston explains why the proposed Orlando maglev train system failed, and why the most successful maglev train is an expensive airport shuttle in Shanghai. Some scientists hope that NASA will keep trying to incorporate maglev into rocket launches. General science and technology buffs will find this accessible book fascinating and might be tempted to try a little levitation themselves. (May)
Boston Globe

Further proof that physics can be fun...Think of Peter Pan, David Copperfield, and Harry Potter. Livingston, a physicist and lecturer at MIT who writes songs about physics, looks at the historical fascination with levitation, both real and fake, and explores the use of magnetic forces to overcome gravity and friction in flying frogs, implanted heart pumps, and high-speed trains.
— Jan Gardner

Nature
Giving a new meaning to literary suspense, physicist James Livingston devotes his book to the science of magnetic levitation. From laboratory demonstrations of floating magnets, flying frogs and suspended sumo wrestlers to the realities of urban maglev trains, he uncovers humanity's fascination with the magic of defying gravity, as well as the physics of magnetic fields and superconductivity.
Engineering & Technology

If you thought magnetic levitation was mostly about flying trains, then read Rising Force. Former physicist at GE and lecturer at MIT, James D. Livingston can barely conceal his excitement, and dry sense of humor, as he takes his readers on a whistle-stop tour of everything "maglev."
— Rebecca Pool

Popular Science

I can easily recommend this title. It's a good insight into an aspect of much of modern technology, with enough surrounding material to keep it entertaining to read.
— Matt Chorley

Fred Fickett
This book is an extensive compendium of everything you might want to know about levitation of things both animate and inanimate. James Livingston is a master of this genre in that he presents quite difficult concepts with humor, history, and detail while always maintaining technical accuracy.
Ralph Hollis
A well-written, factual account of magnetic levitation and accompanying lore over the ages, Rising Force is a welcome addition to Livingston's previous books on magnetics.
Boston Globe - Jan Gardner
Further proof that physics can be fun...Think of Peter Pan, David Copperfield, and Harry Potter. Livingston, a physicist and lecturer at MIT who writes songs about physics, looks at the historical fascination with levitation, both real and fake, and explores the use of magnetic forces to overcome gravity and friction in flying frogs, implanted heart pumps, and high-speed trains.
Engineering & Technology - Rebecca Pool
If you thought magnetic levitation was mostly about flying trains, then read Rising Force. Former physicist at GE and lecturer at MIT, James D. Livingston can barely conceal his excitement, and dry sense of humor, as he takes his readers on a whistle-stop tour of everything "maglev."
Popular Science - Matt Chorley
I can easily recommend this title. It's a good insight into an aspect of much of modern technology, with enough surrounding material to keep it entertaining to read.
Discover
No, MIT professor Livingston writes, the magnetically levitated island in Gulliver's Travels (or its homage in Avatar) is not possible...But while Jonathan Swift's version of levitation is science fiction, it and other cultural examples dot this accessible illustration of the physics that allow for real-life wonders like maglev trains.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674055353
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 5/30/2011
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,458,614
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

James D. Livingston is a former physicist at GE and lecturer at MIT, and the author of Driving Force: The Natural Magic of Magnets.
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Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 Levity vs. Gravity 1

Fictional and Illusional Levitation 1

Wingardium Leviosa! 9

Mystical Levitation 10

Physical Levitation without Magnets 13

2 Gravitational and Magnetic Forces 19

Forces of the Universe 19

Magnetic Forces 23

Magnetic Materials 29

3 Maglev-A Balance of Forces 33

Poles Apart 33

Force at a Distance 36

The Floating Island of Laputa 38

Stability and Degrees of Freedom 42

4 Spinning the Levitron 48

Only a Toy 48

Toy Story 50

The Super 56

5 Inducing Uplift 64

Mutual Induction 64

Flinging Rings and Things 72

Eddy-Current Heating and Levitation Melting 78

Fields of Force 80

6 Flying Frogs 83

The Ig Nobel Prize 83

Diamagnetism and the Moses Effect 85

Diamagnetic Levitation and Stabilization 89

Froglev 95

7 Super-Levitation 101

Superdiamagnetism and Supercurrents 101

Higher Fields 107

Higher Temperatures 111

8 Feeding Back 120

Brief Recap 120

Floating Globes 121

Floatin' in the Wind 131

Snowball in Hell 135

Microbots and Pigs 139

9 In a Spin 143

Bearing Up 143

Enriching and Proliferating 146

A Few Words about Energy 151

Flying Wheels 154

Pumping Blood 158

Floating Rotors 162

10 The No-Spin Zone 167

Flying Broomsticks 167

Flotors and the Maglev Touch 169

Maglev Nanotechnology 174

Sub-Nano: Angstroms and Atoms 180

Maglev Rocket Sleds 183

11 Flying Trains 188

Emile Bachelet 188

Kemper and Electromagnetic Levitation (EML) 194

Powell/Danby and Electrodynamic Levitation (EDL) 200

The Competition 204

12 All Aboard! 210

Urban Maglev 210

Permanent-Magnet Maglev 214

Transrapid Trials-and Tribulations 217

Sin Express to Vegas 224

Maglev Deployment Program and ARRA 227

13 Keeping It Up 231

Up with Magnets! 231

Magnetic Personalities 237

Ben Franklin's Vision: Levity over Gravity 240

Sources and Suggested Readings 249

Acknowledgments 259

Index 263

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