Now that you have acquired your LEVITRON® and have (Presumably mastered the art of spinning the top and placing it in its position of stable levitation, you are perhaps beginning to feel the full sense of wonderment that the LEVITRON® excites in many people. We receive numerous queries from LEVITRON® owners asking for an explanation of how the LEVITRON® works. Many express puzzlement that it works at all, often citing a theorem credited to Earnshaw (1,2) as proof that it should not work.
Interest in the LEVITRON® has always run high among scientists. Recently, analogies of the LEVITRON® to traps for microscopic particles (e.g., electrons, neutrons) have been recognized by scientists working in the fascinating area of research where matter is manipulated and examined, one such microscopic particle at a time. The first to recognize the analogy was Dr. Michael V. Berry of the University of Bristol. Dr. Berry, inspired by this recognition, published a thorough exposition of the physics of the operation of the LEVITRON® (3). Dr. Berry's paper is the best existing explanation of how the LEVITRON® works and he kindly prepared for us a brief encapsulation of its major themes, which we present below. Those wishing to read the full exposition should request a copy of the paper from Dr. Berry (c/o the H. H.. Wills Physics Laboratory, Royal Fort, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol, BS8 1Tl, United Kingdom).