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NASA Levitates Mouse Using Magnetic Fields

Charles Q. Choi of Live Science writes that scientists working for NASA used a superconducting magnet that simulates some of the effects of gravity to lift a mouse into the air. The agency has been working on such technology in the hope of alleviating the bone decay that would affect astronauts in zero-gravity environments for prolonged periods of time:

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….

Repeated levitation tests showed the mice, even when not sedated, could quickly acclimate to levitation inside the cage. After three or four hours, the mice acted normally, including eating and drinking. The strong magnetic fields did not seem to have any negative impacts on the mice in the short term, and past studies have shown that rats did not suffer from adverse effects after 10 weeks of strong, non-levitating magnetic fields.

“We’re trying to see what kind of physiological impact is due to prolonged microgravity, and also what kind of countermeasures might work against it for astronauts,” Liu said. “If we can contribute to the future human exploration of space, that would be very exciting.” They are now applying for funding for such research with their levitator.

Link via Popular Science

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Date
September 9th, 2009

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Stranger to the World

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