Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Next they'll tell me pigs can fly.

ResearchBlogging.orgLast night I had this wonderful dream. It was a normal day in just about every way except I had this amazing ability. When I jumped, I was able to leap great distances and almost fly. No wings were involved - it was almost like I was able to levitate, and slowly drift between places. It was a very calm, serene feeling.

Perhaps that's how the mice in Dr. Liu's lab felt. Advances in Space Research has published online today an accepted manuscript where researchers levitated mice. And, according to their observations, the mice took to the free-floating existence quite readily.

The team first used a magnetic field to suspend large water droplets about 2 inches in diameter. Feeling good about themselves, they decided to try the trick with a mouse of similar size and weight. The little guy, weighing only 10 grams, was placed in a cage-like apparatus that allowed the researchers to film the experiment as well as give the mouse food and water while allowing droppings to fall through the bottom. Then, of course, they turned on the magnet. A static magnetic field with a strength of about 17T and large field gradient of 1.17 T/cm lifted the hapless mouse off the floor.

At first, the mouse wasn't so keen on floating. It tried desperately to grab a hold of anything, and kicked around, causing itself to spin faster and faster. To alleviate some of the stress, researchers sedated the mouse slightly the next time. But before long - about 3-4 hours - even non-sedated mice began acting normally, including eating and drinking in their suspended state.

The team saw no observable negative effects of such a strong magnetic field on the animals, though further research will be necessary to determine if prolonged exposure causes health issues. Previous studies have found that a lower level of magnetic field (9.4T) didn't negatively impact mice, even when they were exposed to it for 10 weeks, but the stronger field used for levitation may have unforeseen, adverse effects after a long time.

While the researchers hope to use this technology for better understanding space flight and bone loss in astronauts, I think there are many applications. Carnival rides, for example. Oh come on - like you've never wanted to levitate!

Liu, Y., Zhu, D., Strayer, D., & Israelsson, U. (2009). Magnetic levitation of large water droplets and mice Advances in Space Research DOI: 10.1016/j.asr.2009.08.033


Anonymous said...

17T (Tesla, I'm assuming), that's one hellova magnet... I think the magnets on the LHC are something like ~8T; MRIs are 1-3T...damn, that's a powerful magnet

Also of note: The addition of the mouse sounds like an idea one develops at a bar after a long day in the lab

Katkinkate said...

I don't get it. How can a magnet, no matter how strong, make a blob of water, let alone a mouse, levitate? I thought magnets only worked on iron.

Anonymous said...

Is this a step towards travelling around in pneumatic tubes?

Or at least flying monkeys!

Christie Lynn said...

Katkinkate: There's a difference between a magnet and a magnetic field. A magnet is the object which produces a magnetic field. Indeed, only certain materials can become permanent magnets - iron is one of them. In general, we tend to say these are "magnetic" substances, and are the only ones that strongly react to magnets.

But almost everything temporarily responds to a magnetic field. Water is very diamagnetic, which means it repels magnetic fields. If you have a strong magnet at home, you can try a little trick to show this : put a faucet on very low and slowly move the magnet closer to the stream. You should see it bend.

So, with a strong enough field, you can, hypothetically, lift anything that is mostly water because you can create a strong enough repulsive force that it overcomes the pull of gravity.

johnblatchford said...

not a comment on this - but a kind of response to your tweet about Carpenter Bees. I wrote an article on the European Carpenter Bee some time ago (http://insects.suite101.com/article.cfm/european_carpenter_bee)

- I have been FW there for Marine Biology - latterly all Zoology - article list here: http://www.suite101.com/writer_articles.cfm/johnblatchford

twitter username johnblatchford

Galaxy6139 said...

I wish I can fly ^^

Lab Rat said...

They di this with a frog as well...you can actually watch the video on youtube!: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1vyB-O5i6E