Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009

The Levitating Mouse

A few very disoriented mice could hold the keys to safer space travel. Researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, led by Yuanming Liu, have figured out how to make the tiny critters float in midair using magnets. The effects of the levitation on the mice could provide insight into how to prevent adverse health effects — like bone loss — on astronauts who spend long periods of time in low gravity. According to the scientists who conducted the experiment, the weightless mice were initially confused and flung themselves into rapid spins. The scientists sedated the rodents, which helped, but said eventually even fully conscious mice were able to acclimate to the weightless conditions enough to eat and drink normally.