Our Amazing World:
Superconductors --What goes up must come down! Or does it?

by Joe Selzler

"Interestingly, our world has a curious way of throwing up unexpected attributes that give hints of something greater than we ever imagined. "

Many of us today will be familiar with the story of Sir Isaac Newton and his being hit by an apple falling from a tree. This story seems to be connected to his studies on the work of a force he called gravitas (a Latin word), which became known as gravity. A contemporary writer, William Stukely, recorded in his Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's Life a conversation he had with Newton in Kensington, London on 15 April 1726, in which Newton recalled "when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. It was occasioned by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood. Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself. Why should it not go sideways or upwards, but constantly to the earth's centre."1 Issac Newton lived in an age when men began to have more time to investigate the operation of the world around them. The Reformation freed western man from strict church dogma and allowed them to live according to their conscience, by what they themselves read in the Bible and how they understood it. Along with this freeing from church dogma came a new freedom to investigate the world we live in and to come to an understanding of how it works.

As a result of this investigation men began to see that the world was not inhabited by gods, devils and boogy men that lived in nature and made their lives a misery. Solid, rational observation of the water cycle showed us that it was not an angry god who caused the huge thunderstorms that sent us cowering for cover to avoid the wrath.2 It was by the observation of nature that man was able to discover the forces and physical laws that sustained our world. In fact, we have discovered that these forces appear to be universal in scope. Because we have a better understanding of our world than previous generations we have arrived at the point where we can even now manipulate it for our benefit. Whether it is in medicine, physics, chemistry or whatever branch of science, new and improved ways of manipulating our world are being discovered every day. Many of us, then, are awed by science and scientists and in general we give deference to it and to them. Whenever there is a question about something we ask, “What does science say? What do the scientists think?” If we turn to the Church at all it is to seek the moral view on something. “How far should we go with this treatment? Is this research moral?” etc. However, there are some today who think even this turning to the Church for moral guidance should be a thing of the past. After all, they argue, science has proven that religion is really just superstition and therefore it is a dangerous malady that should be eliminated from society. 3

Interestingly, our world has a curious way of throwing up unexpected attributes that give hints of something greater than we ever imagined. I remember when I was a child I would wonder at magicians who seemed to be able to levitate an assistant. With the assistant suspended in mid air they would pass a ring over the person to show that no wires were being used. As I grew up I knew that it was all just a trick, an illusion, a magician's trade secret. I learned through personal experience that Newton’s Law of Gravity always brings you back to earth. I was very interested in science fiction when I was in my teens and in reading science fiction novels I was introduced to the idea of anti-gravity. It was the drive behind many a science fiction writer’s transport. Unfortunately, science has not yet produced such an anti-gravity drive, although NASA is said to be working on one following the experiments of the Russian scientist Dr. Eugene Podkletnov. 4 However, recent work with superconductors shows some stunning results. It is possible to use a superconductor to levitate a magnet.5,6 Indeed, if a superconductor is cooled by liquid nitrogen it will levitate a magnet a few inches above it.

Watching videos5 of this levitation in action I am far more impressed than by any magician’s trick I have ever seen. For I know that this is no illusion or trick, but it is a part of the operation of the universe around us. Yet, I immediately realised that this experimentation gave clarification and substance to a story from history that many doubt happened. In the first century AD some fishermen were rowing their boat across the Sea of Galilee in Israel. They were struggling against a hard wind and the task of reaching the far shore was taking most of the night. Toward morning they saw a figure coming to them. He was actually walking on the water. Now, imagine yourself in the boat with those men, struggling to get safely to the other side of a wind-tossed sea and suddenly you see this figure of a person walking out to you over the surface of the water.7 Okay, you can be there with your 21st century mind amongst their 1st century minds. When they cry, “It is a Ghost!” You can ignore that and look to see if there are any wires or submerged surfboards or some kind of ice8 that the figure may be walking on. But then, you will start to consider that you are some ways out from land (perhaps three to four miles) and natural explanations begin to look a bit thin. He is coming close to your boat and yet you do not feel the boat striking anything unseen below the surface and none of the others in the boat seem to feel it either. You also remember that the 1st century AD knew nothing of steel wire, which could hold someone up as if on a tight rope but might not be seen in the darkness. Certainly a rope suspended across the lake to hold up the figure would have been very visible, even in darkness. Surfboards did not exist then either. Then, to your amazement one of the fishermen calls the figure “Lord” and asks him to call him out of the boat to walk over the water to him. And he gets out of the boat and begins to walk on the water as well. How did he find ice you cannot see? Certainly if the fishermen used ropes or boards or other devices to perform such a trick you would see it right away.

Let's consider a couple of points here. When we hear the fishermen cry that they are seeing a ghost we conclude, with out 21st century minds, that they are a superstitious bunch and we can ignore whatever they say about this Jesus of Nazareth. But as soon as Jesus responded to their cry Peter asked Jesus to command that he should come to him out of the boat on the water. Superstitious people usually do not act like this. Peter obviously realized that if Jesus was able to walk on the water he would be able to command that he do the same thing. What eventually failed Peter was his faith that Jesus was able to keep him on the surface of the water.

This walking on the water by Jesus and that of Peter is certainly not something that would normally be possible to anyone or anything on earth. The surface tension of water is strong enough to hold a water spider against gravity or perhaps the Jesus Lizard (Basilisk Lizard), but not a man. No one has ever been able to perform a scientific experiment where they could walk on water. Does this mean that Jesus just could not do such a thing and therefore we must relegate this story to that of a fairy tale or a legend? Science usually says that a thing must use the scientific method in order for it to be considered science. Therefore, because no one has been able to walk on water since the 1st century and been able to do it following scientific methodology it cannot be considered by science as having validity. However, there are areas of science, such as archaeology, that are considered science which are not subject to scientific methods and yet are quite legitimate.9 Therefore, is it right for scientists to cast this story aside and say it has no validity for our modern world, that we should consider it to be a mere fairytale? Would it not be more plausible to accept the testimony of 12 men who saw their teacher walk to them on the water and also saw one of them walk on water out to their teacher at his command?

The levitation of a magnet by a superconductor should suggest to us that it is very possible that the force of gravity can be overcome. Though I admit that superconductor levitation is not related to the property of water that is surface tension, I suggest that it should be considered that the walking on water by Jesus should be thought of as no more incredible than levitating a magnet would have been thought less that 100 years ago. I think that magnetic levitation by a superconductor could suggest that this person of Jesus who lived in the 1st century knew something of the order of our universe that we can only dream about now. I think it should suggest that he is just what he and the writers of the New Testament claim he is, the son of the creator of our world. If that is so, then he can also know us and the things we faced before now, the things we face now, and the things we will face in the future. Let us not be like Peter who fainted at the tossing of the sea and the wind. Let us trust him and walk out to him on the rolling sea of life!

  1. Newton’s Apple, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [sic], Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Issac_newton#Newton.27s_apple.
  2. In general, humans until the last few centuries were influenced by belief that gods and superstitions influenced or manipulated our world and us. However, there have been many throughout the ages that have had a more enlightened view of our world.
  3. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. Ecclesiastes 1:7 King Solomon describing the water cycle, cir. 960 BC
  4. For example, the Roman poet Lucretius postulated that the world came into existence and continues in existence in “accordance with the primary conditions of the elemental atoms which, along with empty space, are the only eternal and immutable substances.” http://healthfully.org/biographical/id12.html, Lucretius, Roman Poet and Philosopher, California Skeptics [sic]
  5. In his recent television mini-series, upon which a book may shortly be based, Dr Richard Dawkins suggests that religion is the root of evil. He is even of the view that religious education is tantamount to child abuse. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/uk/2000/newsmakers/1595744.stm
  6. NASA's Antigravity Machine, From Popular Mechanics - 03-JAN-98 - By Jim Wilson, “ What goes up must come down. Well, maybe not.“ http://www.keelynet.com/gravity/nasaag.htm
  7. Some movies showing the levitation in action. http://www.fys.uio.no/super/levitation/
  8. For a brief history of superconducting material and properties see: http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/micro/gallery/superconductor/super.html © 1995-2006 by Michael W. Davidson and The Florida State University.
  9. This story is from Matthew Chapter 14: 22-32, Mark Chapter 6:45-53, and John 6:16-24. Some may be sceptical of this story because it comes from a religious book. However, you can find many links to books on http://www.worldinvisible.comthat show just how reliable a history book the Bible is.
  10. Jesus Walked on Ice, Study Says, Source: Florida State University, By Libby Fairhurst, PhysicsOrg.com, http://www.physorg.com/news63367761.html "As natural scientists, we simply explain that unique freezing processes probably happened in that region only a handful of times during the last 12,000 years," Nof said. "We leave to others the question of whether or not our research explains the biblical account." Can such a rare ice really explain this story? It had to hold Jesus up. It had to extend from the land as far as a moving, tossing boat. And Peter had to be able to find that ice and walk on it. Is this science or simply refusing to accept the obvious: Jesus had power over nature because he was the son of God.
  11. What is Science? Journal of Theoretics [sic], © Journal of Theoretics, Inc. 1999 Vol.1-3, http://www.journaloftheoretics.com/Editorials/Vol-1/e1-3.htm Explains how archaeology cannot use the scientific method per say and yet it is considered science.

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