Sciencing the Shit Out of Pokemon Sun and Moon's Alolan Raichu

Alolan Raichu's hovering surfboard tail might not be as mystical as it actually seems. Grade-school science can tell us a lot about how it works.

 I was set out to debunk the new Raichu from Pokemon Sun and Moon. I mean, the dang mousy pocket monster floats on his tail for goodness sake. I could quickly point out that there is no scientific evidence for telekinetic powers, regardless of what Stranger Things says. Floating on his tail like a super cute surfer mouse was just not a thing of science. It occurred to me that he couldn’t be doing it with telekinetics, even if mind-powers were a thing.

Have you ever attempted to lift yourself up off the ground? C’mon, don’t lie to me. I know you’ve tried it -- everybody has. Of course, it doesn’t work unless you’re David Blaine. And we all know why it doesn’t work, too: There is no anchor to the earth. You have nothing pushing against the ground. As soon as you put a pole in the ground or some other kind of anchor, you can lift yourself off the ground and hold yourself there, if you were strong enough. Despite the page on Alolan Raichu saying that it lifts itself up with psychic powers, there has to be another explanation.

OK, so Alolan Raichu’s powers aren’t all psychic. It also has electric powers like the regular Raichu. Is there a way that it could be using its electric powers to lift itself off the ground? As a matter of fact, there is. Let’s science the shit out of Alolan Raichu!

Electromagnets and repelling forces

First off, I’m not going to speculate on how this little mouse has electric abilities in the first place. Although there are animals in the world who do have the ability to conduct an external electric current, none of them can reach the voltage of Raichu.

How much is that exactly? Well, we all know that Pikachu can shoot bolts of lightning from its fur. And as we learned when we scienced the shit out of Batman’s Remote Electric Control gun, that given enough voltage, pretty much anything can conduct electricity. In the case of Raichu and Pikachu, we know that since they can create bolts of lightning, they are conducting at least 100 million volts of electricity at hundreds of millions of amps.

As we know from grade-school science, electricity traveling in a singular direction will create a magnetic field. Grade school also taught us that magnetic currents ‘spinning’ in the same direction will repel each other. For instance, if you take a two magnets and press them close together with the north poles facing each other, you’ll run into magnetic resistance. And obviously, if the poles are opposite, they will attract each other. But this time we are only concerned with the flow of electricity in the same direction.

Real life hoverboards

Real life hoverboards without wheels use magnets and superconductors. And I hate to burst your bubble but all the hoverboards that we have seen -- like the one in the Lexus commercial -- use a track to keep the board in the air. However, there are certain principles from hoverboard science that can be applied to Raichu’s floating tail.

In the track for the Lexus hoverboard, there are actually two magnetic fields in parallel with each other. In the YouTube videos produced by Lexus, the engineers explain that the track has a north pole on the edges of the track with a south pole in the middle. When the superconductive material in the board is placed above this track, it actually locks thanks to the Meissner effect. In fact, the material actually becomes locked onto this track.

The problem with applying this effect one-to-one with Raichu’s hovering is that there is no superconductive material that we know about in Raichu’s tail. If there was, then it would make this explanation a lot simpler. Nintendo, get on that.

How Raichu does it

Until Nintendo changes its mind about Raichu’s tail, we will have to work with what’s given to us. We know that Raichu can create an electrical current in its own body, and thanks to its lightning abilities, we know that Raichu can also create an electrical current in nearly any other material, even if the material isn’t exactly conductive.

Using the track principle demonstrated by the Lexus hoverboard, Raichu could (in theory) create an electromagnetic current under his tail, which is also creating an electromagnetic current in a same direction as the ground. This would create two opposing electromagnetic currents -- therefore giving Raichu the ability to float. This could be a unique ability for Alolan Raichu because, perhaps, there is something different about the shape of its tail that allows for the current to flow better.

There is one minor snag with this theory. If the ground material is highly resistant to electricity, it’s doesn’t just take the current and go about its day when the current is gone. No, as we as likely aware, resistant material actually heats up when an electrical current is forced through it. So, that means, that unless Raichu travels strictly on conductive metal, there will be a trail of scorched earth wherever it goes -- not very environmentally friendly.

That is how I science the shit out of Raichu’s hovering -- but as with all science, it’s not true science until it’s tested and retested. How would you explain Raichu’s floating abilities? Do you like the psychic ability explanation better? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. And if you haven’t read them yet, take a look at my articles about how Pokeballs work, it might just blow your mind.

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Published Sep. 16th 2016

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