Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Magnets + NASA + Mouse = Whee!

Back in September, it was reported* that a group of NASA-funded scientists had succeeded in levitating mice using a superconducting magnet and a special chamber. Specifically, they built a device that would levitate the water in an organism, and since mice are mostly water, they were induced to float.

Funnily enough, humans are also made mostly of water. This is not entirely coincidental. (Cue discussion of mouse-human biological similarities and subsequent suitability of mice as stand-ins for people in experiments.) NASA's trying to find a way to mimic zero-gravity bone loss, so they can find a solution.

Although the first mouse panicked and started doing that spin in midair thing, and the second mouse was sedated beforehand to prevent a repeat, the scientists reported that
[r]epeated 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.
While this is all wonderful and exciting and geeky, if you've been following this blog for a while, you can probably predict my reaction:

What else can we use this to levitate, and how soon can this set-up be commercialized? I mean, we can put water into just about anything, right?



Anonymous said...

Perhaps as an alternative to fuel/combustion in aircrafts? The environment would love NASA for that one. The only problem with it is figuring out how you'd position the magnets, and there's going to be complaints from people with things like pacemakers...

Anassa said...

I think you've got to surround the floating thing with the magnets, so unless you had enough water in a magnet-lined tank in the plane to lift the water and the magnets and the plane, it wouldn't work. :( I like the idea of using magnets in roadways and the bottoms of vehicles to create flying cars, though.