Sunday December 17th 2017

New Weightlessness Research on Fruit Flies

Free News Press – Dr Richard Hill, an EPSRC research fellow at the University of Nottingham School of Physics and Astronomy, conducted a test to see how life can be affected by weightlessness in space. The group of scientists used fruit flies and strong electromagnets to create a simulated weightless environment.

After the flies entered the weightless environment they walked much quicker than they did before. Dr Hill is puzzled about why this happens, but thinks the weightlessness might be easier on there joints; their muscles can move freely with less resistance or interference.

Dr Hill said it is currently impossible to use this technique to test weightlessness on humans. No magnet is strong enough to levitate a human being. Fortunately, fruit flies weigh very little and are easier to levitate using magnets. They are also readily available and are commonly used in studies on genetics.

The effect caused by the super magnet being used to levitate the flies isn’t exactly the same as “real” weightlessness; however the group of scientists wanted to make sure the experiment was test-worthy. The researchers could conduct a more accurate experiment in space.

Another reason why the experiment was conducted on earth involved cost. It is much cheaper to use a super magnet than to send a group of flies into space. They also don’t want to expose the flies to high gravity forces in the rocket trip to space, as it might have an affect on the experiment.

“It’s also important to remember that, in our future endeavours to explore space, setting up permanent bases on our Moon, or Mars for example, or other planets, it will be crucial to understand the effects of weightlessness on all living organisms: our long-term survival will of course require us to take with us many different biological organisms,” Hill said.

The research was published in the latest edition of the Royal Society journal Interface.

Image: Drosophila Fruit Fly taken by Muhammad Mahdi Karim

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