Nasa’s levitating mice

Illustration by Transluszent
Date:31 December 2009 Tags:

Researchers at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory seeking ways to study the effects of weightlessness on astronauts have succeeded in levitating small mice.

Researchers at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory seeking ways to study the effects of weightlessness on astronauts have succeeded in levitating small mice using a 17-tesla magnet.

The magnetic field is so strong that it affects the water in the animal’s tissues, prompting a repulsive magnetic force that suspends the rodent in the air. It takes a superconducting magnet operating at minus 271 degrees to float a 10-gram mouse within a 6,6 cm bore, which is kept at room temperature. The magnetic field is applied evenly to keep the mice hovering in place, and scientists say rodents acclimate to the test in about four hours. Lessons learned could prevent astronaut bone deterioration during long missions.