We’re Levitating Flies To Be Sure They Can Go To Mars With Us

micrograph of fruit fly

Because it’s exhausting to buzz your face until you move.

Even Marvel Comics’ Magneto had to start somewhere, first moving small coins, for instance. On an even humbler scale, British scientists say they’ve used powerful magnets to levitate fruit flies.

Three questions:

Fruit flies can, of course, fly, taking some of the cool factor out of the feat. Why fruit flies? Just thinking about levitating similarly tiny insects that can’t fly — spiders, fire ants, the Olsen twins —  results in psychosis-inducing nightmares.

The Olsens: Twice the tragedy

We’re not emaciated husks. We’re just small-boned.

Why levitate bugs at all?

Far as I’m concerned, I was sold on the critical nature of this research while trying to read a Space Travel article about it through a squadron of the jagoffs. I’d love to be able to move them outside, Magneto-like, with a wave of my hand (albeit via some kind of controller).

As it turns out, there are better reasons. From the Space Travel story:

 …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.

Last question: Who’s getting paid to make a list of Earth pests we are taking to Mars?

Oh. Right.


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