Thursday, September 10, 2009

Levitating Mice: No Kidding

"Mice Levitated in Lab"
Animals, LiveScience (September 9, 2009)

"Scientists have now levitated mice using magnetic fields.

"Other researchers have made live frogs and grasshoppers float in mid-air before, but such research with mice, being closer biologically to humans, could help in studies to counteract bone loss due to reduced gravity over long spans of time, as might be expected in deep space missions or on the surfaces of other planets.

"Scientists working on behalf of NASA built a device to simulate variable levels of gravity. It consists of a superconducting magnet that generates a field powerful enough to levitate the water inside living animals, with a space inside warm enough at room temperature and large enough at 2.6 inches wide (6.6 cm) for tiny creatures to float comfortably in during experiments...."

There's serious science going on here, the mice appear to get used to being levitated after a few hours, and studies with rats suggest that exposure to very strong magnetic fields over a period of 10 weeks doesn't do short-term harm.

This research should show how astronauts' bodies deal with microgravity over long periods of time.

And, I think, given time it'll be possible to set up a chamber big enough for people - there are seriously cool entertainment possibilities here, providing that there aren't medical side-effects. (After decades of 'magnetism kills and everything causes cancer,' I'm a trifle dubious about sundry dire warnings.)

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