Weird Flying Carpet Experiment Makes The Magic Real (Video)


The truth is it’s not exactly a carpet that’s floating around a lab at Princeton. More like a plastic sheet that has an electric current running through it. The creation of a grad student inspired by a paper he read by some MIT prof, the footage of the experiment has since gone viral. Innovation at its best, ladies and gentlemen. Below is a fantasy stock image of a flying carpet, because the real footage (after the jump!)  looks awful.

Magic Carpet

It took graduate student Noah Jafferis two years and a lot of painstaking labor to finally get his sheet to, uh, hover. To what end? Vindicating some paper he read that was authored by an MIT prof. Of course, when the prof heard about Jafferis’ work, he was mighty proud.

The ‘carpet’ is actually a thin plastic sheet and if it does prove useful in any applications, it could make an impact on VTOL technology. Quite exciting, since the tech on a Harrier’s VTOL isn’t really as hot these days.

The video:

Source BBC


  • Anonymous

    Just to clarify, the current work is about demonstrating a propulsive force 
    produced by traveling waves in a thin plastic sheet, not lift as of yet. To 
    achieve lift, the sheet has to be untethered to allow it reach faster speeds 
    (while still being only a few mm above the ground).
    We performed such measurements in two setups – one with the sheet suspended 
    using an air table, and the other with the sheet hanging from elastic threads. 
    The propulsion only works when the sheet is suspended ~1-2mm above the ground, as expected from theory.

    The BBC also did not include the description of the videos, that I had given them:

    The first video is demonstrating the propulsion caused by the traveling wave. 
    The sheet is supported on a cushion of air from the air table, ~1mm above it, 
    and is connected to conductive threads to supply power. When the sheet is off, 
    its equilibrium position is near the center of the air 
    table, and it does not move significantly. When the sheet is on, in this case 
    with a traveling wave propagating to the left, it is propelled in the opposite 
    direction (to the right in this case). The video shows the sheet turning on and 
    off in several cycles, and it thus moves back and forth. Because the frequency 
    of vibration is 100Hz, the actual wave shape can not be seen; rather the sheet 
    seems to “shimmer” when on.

    In the second video, the vibration is only a few Hz, to allow viewing of the 
    actual traveling wave vibration. But frequencies this low are not sufficient to 
    propel the sheet. In addition, the sheet is suspended from elastic threads in 
    this case (~1cm above the ground, so no propulsion would be observed even at 
    higher frequencies). Also, the second video is not displaying properly here, presumably due to skipped frames, so it does not look like a traveling wave. The BBC version is better.

    Several other errors in the bbc article: 

    It is not really like a hovercraft, which pushes air down to create lift – our device pushes air backwards to propel itself forward.

    The sentences “He abandoned what would have been a fashionable project printing electronic circuits with nano-inks for one that seemed to have more in common with 1001 Nights than 21st-Century engineering. Prof James Sturm, who leads Mr Jafferis’ research group, conceded that at times the project seemed foolhardy.” were completely made up by the BBC.

    The sheet would actually only need to be 50 feet on each side to carry the weight of a person, not 50 meters.

  • Jay-z Luvr

    nerds make this world a better place