If we were to make a list to things that we were supposed to have because this is the future, right behind our personal jetpack would be a levitation device. While we’re still waiting on that jetpack, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA has invented a device capable of floating a mouse in midair.
In everyday terms, the scientists created a magnet so strong that it could repel water molecules, which only react to magnetism is the strongest of magnetic fields. In scientific terms, the group using a superconducting, supercooled electromagnet to create a magnetic field of 17 teslas, 10,000 times stronger than the Earth’s average magnetic field. Because water molecules are diamagnetic, all of the water molecules generate a magnetic field of their own that opposes the field that generated them. The result is a force capable of levitating the mouse in midair.
Scientists have previously levitated objects and animals like grasshoppers and frogs, but this is the first time that they have used a mammal. Mice are also used as model organisms in the vast majority of medical research, hence the “gravity” of the accomplishment. (And sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves.)
The scientists plan to use the device to study the long-term effects of microgravity on the mice. While the first mice put in the device flipped around and became disoriented, adjustments have allowed the scientists to keep the mice in place, and even feed them, allowing them to basically live inside the field. Studying the physical effects of low gravity was (obviously) only possible during space flight. Now, this land-based research will prove useful for future space exploration where astronauts might have to live for extended periods of time in space.