The Hovering Butterfly

How can you get an object to mysteriously hover? Experiment with magnets and see how you can offset the pull of gravity.

What you will need:

  • A shoebox
  • Paper
  • Tape
  • Markers or crayons to decorate your cut-out
  • Large paper clips
  • One magnet or more (stronger ones preferred)
  • About 24″ of thread or clear fishing line

Here’s what to do:

  1. Open the shoe box (you will not need the lid) and stand it upright.
  2. On the inside of the top end of the box, tape a magnet.
  3. Draw and cut out your floating object (it should be a couple of inches wide and tall), then tape one large paper clip to it.
  4. Tie the end of the thread to the paper clip and then hold your floating object under the magnet, so that the paper clip almost reaches the magnet, but not quite.
  5. With the thread hanging down, tape it to the bottom of the box so that it is taut.
  6. Depending on the strength of your magnet, you might have to make some adjustments to get your cut-out to hover below the magnet.

Take it further:

  • What happens when you vary the length of the thread to change the distance between the paper clip and the magnet?
  • Is there a difference between magnets of different strengths?
  • What happens if you use more than one magnet at a time?
  • Does it matter how many paper clips you attach to your cut-out?
  • How heavy of an object can you get to stay suspended?
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