In a study commissioned by NASA, a research team at the University of Missouri has made a mouse levitate, using nothing but magnetic fields. As a result, the poor mouse floats in mid-air, wondering where the ground went.
The researchers put the three-week-old mouse in a specially designed chamber then applied an external magnetic field. The field lifts up all of the water inside the little mouse's body, apparently with no ill effects.
Well, there is one ill effect: during levitation, the mouse was visibly confused, scrambling around to try to find a wall or the ground. The result of all of that scrambling was that the mouse began to spin wildly in the apparently zero-gravity chamber. The next test subject was given a mild sedative to prevent this probably very difficult to watch disorientation.
Apparently, after only a few hours in the little levitation cage, the mice were fully able to acclimate to their new floating state, eating and drinking normally.
All of this mouse-floating is in the name of science, of course. The team is running long term studies, set to be published in Advances in Space Research, on bone loss in zero gravity environments. Scientists have previously levitated live frogs and bugs, but these levitating mice mean that scientists can observe the effects of weightlessness on a more human-like creature. The team seems not to realize that an anti-gravity mouse is far more interesting than a microgravity study, but hopefully there are more cute floating animals in our future.
Mice Levitated in Lab [via LiveScience]
(Image: the mouse in two variations of the levitation cage, from Da-Ming Zhu et al.)