Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Thursday, 10 September 2009

No Parachutes for Algernon


Can you build an anti-gravity machine for mice? It sounds like one of those questions you’d ask in the pub, but those clever scientists at JPL have done just that.

Not content with making frogs hover in mid-air – who said science was boring? – they’re using magnets to suspend mice above the floor of a specially designed cage to study the physical effects of weightlessness on mammals.

A superconducting magnet generates a field which levitates the water inside living tissue and the rest of the animal goes along for the ride, so to speak. Which is probably a good thing, really, particularly for the mouse.

Their first subject became agitated and disoriented – wouldn’t you? – so the next mice to try it were sedated. Just imagine what was going through their tiny, stoned rodent minds; ‘Hey man, I think I’m flying! No, really!’

The plan is to continue the experiment long enough to study the long-term effects of a zero-g environment. What we don't know is what will happen to their brains - experiments have shown that exposure to magnetic fields can affect brain activity and can duplicate effects sometimes described as profound religious experiences.

Who knows? This could be the beginning of a spiritually enlightened super-mouse.

1 comment:

  1. Well, it's at least nice to see some scientists doing some real science for a change.

    Now, where my flying car, robot servant, personal jetpack, labour-saving kitchen devices, etc?

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