The Deliberate Amateur
How outlandish experimentation and “grazing shallow” led to a Nobel Prize win.
…Geim became curious about magnetism when he didn’t have the equipment to continue his experiments while working at Radboud University Nijmegen’s High Field Magnet Laboratory in the Netherlands. So one Friday evening he set the electromagnet to maximum power, then poured water straight into the expensive machine. He still can’t remember why he “behaved so unprofessionally,’” but he was able to see how descending water “got stuck” within the vertical bore. Balls of water started floating. They were levitating. He had discovered that a seemingly “feeble magnetic response of water” could act against Earth’s gravitational force….
[Later, on a different subject] …The team submitted a paper summarizing their findings to Nature. The journal rejected it twice—which is such a common fate for historically path-breaking ideas that it could signal an unintended compliment. One referee said it did “not constitute a sufficient scientific advance,” Geim later said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech….
BONUS: Video of the frog-levitation experiment, which arose from the pouring-the-water-into-the-magnet experiment and which was later honored with an Ig Nobel Prize in physics:
and a demonstration of the graphine experiment, which was later honored with a Nobel Prize in physics: