|Caleb Landry Jones was the actor who played Banshee|
in the Marvel comic movie X-Men: First Class.
As some of you may know, Banshee is a Marvel Universe character that possesses a sonic scream capable of harming enemies, causing physical vibrations, and flying (as shown in the movie X-Men: First Class). I'm ambivalent in my feelings toward this character, however, I was wondering if sound really could make someone fly. It's one of those things that kind of hung in the back of my mind. I know the writers of comic books sometimes go to great efforts to explain superpowers as best as they can using scientific principles to lure the audience into a suspension of disbelief. The same thoughts also go into magic systems, which are all the rage these days in fantasy fiction. So here's the question of the day: is there real world science that could make Marvel's Banshee fly? It turns out that the answer is yes.
Sound by itself may not allow someone to fly around at incredible speed, but it can be used to defy gravity. I guess once you accomplish this perhaps all that's needed is a propulsion system, right? Allow me to introduce you to a phenomenon called acoustic levitation.
Below is a video that demonstrates how sound waves can be used to levitate individual droplets of solutions containing different pharmaceuticals. The machine featured is called (simply enough) an acoustic levitator and was originally developed for NASA to simulate microgravity conditions. It uses two small speakers to generate sound waves at frequencies slightly above the audible range--roughly 22 kilohertz. When the top and bottom speakers are precisely aligned, they create two sets of sound waves that perfectly interfere with each other, setting up a phenomenon known as a standing wave.
At certain points along a standing wave, known as nodes, there is no net transfer of energy. Because the acoustic pressure from the sound waves is sufficient to cancel the effect of gravity, light objects are able to levitate when placed at the nodes. Simple enough concept to grasp, right? I think this video is incredibly cool and you should watch it :) It's not magic, it's science. Have a great Tuesday and don't forget the IWSG tomorrow!