I've watched movie "Avatar" few times. In my opinion it's one really good movie but every time I watch it I wonder how the hell that pieces of ground or "flying islands" can be in the air? Is there any explanation for that?

And if they can somehow fly, how is it even possible that they stay in one place?


2 Answers 2


You can see how in Parker Selfridge's office:



James Cameron's original scriptment had this to say:

Here's how it works:

Polyphemis (the massive planet around which Pandora revolves) has a mother of magnetosphere... a naturally occurring magnetic field a million times more powerful than Earth's.

  • As Pandora rotates and revolves through this field, its molten iron core generates its own field, with "cells" or vortices which are small regions of intensely powerful magnetic force at the surface.

Added to this unique phenomenon is another... Pandora is blessed with a naturally occurring substance a million times more precious than gold. Its joke name of "unobtanium" has stuck, over the years.

Unobtanium is a rare-earth mineral, formed volcanically, which is a roomtemperature superconductor.

  • The room temperature superconductor has been the "snark" of modern materials science... a substance which transmits electricity with zero resistance, but at normal temperatures, rather than the liquid-helium cooled superconductors of human science.

Unobtanium does not exist in our solar system. It is unique to Pandora. And it is the reason to go there... the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow bridge.

Another interesting property of superconducting materials is that they will levitate in a powerful magnetic field.

  • This magnetic levitation, or maglev, effect has been used to lift trains and run them without wheels since the late 1980's.

  • On Pandora the effect causes huge outcroppings of unobtanium to rip loose from the surface and float in the magnetic vortices. These floating islands circulate slowly in the magnetic currents, like icebergs at sea, scraping against each other and the towering mesa-like mountains of the region.

Why not mine the Mountains?

The RDA originally was mining the mountains, but after one mountain was mined from the bottom too much, it became top heavy and flipped over, killing a huge number of workers and ruining much equipment. After this incident the RDA stuck to mining more safe locations of the substance.

  • Never knew there was something scientific behind that, +1 to you and James Cameron.
    – karth
    Sep 26, 2013 at 13:05
  • +1 I've watched this movie several times and never made connect between unobtanium and the floating mountains. Great answer.
    – Reactgular
    Sep 26, 2013 at 18:00

From james-camerons-avatar.wikia.com

The Hallelujah Mountains (Na'vi name: Ayram alusìng meaning "Floating Mountains") are floating islands that circulate slowly in the magnetic currents like icebergs at sea, scraping against each other and the towering mesa-like mountains of the region. On Pandora, huge outcroppings of unobtanium rip loose from the surface and float in the magnetic vortices due to the Meissner Effect.

James Cameron said that it was the Huang Shan mountains that inspired him to create the Hallelujah Mountains, which would explain the similar appearance.(It looks similar but they obviously not flying mountains).

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