Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

Scientists Levitate a Mouse

One of the first spells revealed in the Harry Potter books — way back in The Sorcerer's Stone (1997) — was Wingardium Leviosa, which causes the target of the charm to hover several feet in the air. This year, researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory figured out how to do that particular magic trick without uttering any spell whatsoever. Using sophisticated magnets on mice, the JPL scientists were able to simulate the effects of a no-gravity environment. Although the floating mice didn't like it much, eventually they acclimated. Scientists hope to use the levitation technology to learn how to prevent bone loss in astronauts who spend extended periods in low-gravity settings.