Two Things You Need To Levitate a Mouse: 1) Strong Magnet 2) Sedatives

By Eliza Strickland | September 10, 2009 2:19 pm

levitating mouseIn an experiment that might be classified more as a cool party trick than a scientific breakthrough, researchers levitated a mouse using a powerful superconducting magnet. Other scientists have previously levitated frogs and bugs using the same technique, but the floating mouse was the first mammal to have the honor. The trick works because the magnet generates a strong magnetic field, and because the water in the mouse’s body is weakly diamagnetic–it generates a magnetic field of its own that pushes back against the external field. Since the researchers had a strong enough magnet, the repulsive force generated by the water in each mouse cell combined to make its whole body float.

The researchers used a tiny three-week-old mouse that was only as heavy as a stack of four pennies. When the scientists levitated the youngster it appeared agitated and disoriented, seemingly trying to hold on to something. “It actually kicked around and started to spin, and without friction, it could spin faster and faster, and we think that made it even more disoriented,” said researcher Yuanming Liu…. They decided to mildly sedate the next mouse they levitated, which seemed content with floating [LiveScience]. 

The technique will be a boon for space research, the scientists say. “We’re trying to see what kind of physiological impact is due to prolonged microgravity, and also what kind of countermeasures might work against it for astronauts,” Liu said. “If we can contribute to the future human exploration of space, that would be very exciting” [LiveScience].

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DISCOVER: Floating Frog

Image: Da-Ming Zhu et al.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Space, Technology
  • nick

    I personally cannot wait until the first “levitate yourself” amusement park ride hits. At this point it’s only a matter of time and money (and hoping the magnetic field doesn’t, say, give you cancer or whatever).

    When the time comes, I’ll get one of these to put under my meditation cushion, attach it to a brainwave sensor and have the magnetic ‘volume’ crank itself up as I slip deeper into meditation. I mean, how rad would that be?

  • Eliza Strickland

    Very very very rad. That is how rad it would be. File the patent now!!

  • Jumblepudding

    If you exerted an uneven magnetic force couldn’t you rip somebody to pieces, or at the very least knock an assailant down? I know this tech would mature a lot faster if they got the military industrial complex in on it.

  • shimapan


    No, because the magnetic field keeping it up is generated by the mouse’s water, not the external field.

  • Patvann

    There is a big difference upon the physiology of the subject of-study, between the conditions of the microgravity of space, and levitaion due to magnetics.

    The results of one will have nothing to do with the other. Mr. Liu needs to go back to school.

  • shimapan


    You will be easier when you tell us how.

  • les madras

    where’s the SPCA?

  • Marc Black

    This levitation idea could also work as a sort of “simulated gravity” idea in a way in space by putting the magnetic field device on the ceiling of a spacecraft (relatively) and have it push downward (again, relatively) on the inhabitants of the craft.. It would kinda simulate the pressure of air that we have on earth rather then have the gravitational attraction from below.. Hopefully it would keep the astronauts on the floor and maybe help with the whole excersize and muscle loss issue that would result in zero gravity by putting some pressure on their bodies. Although it would require a lot of energy out there and wouldn’t be perfect, it’s an idea that could be worked towards, as long, of course, that there are no adverse, deadly, or damaging effects on us humans or the devices inside, on, or outside the craft.

  • Stephen Weinstein

    Could this be used to levitate burn victims so that they do not have to put any weight on their burns?


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