York researchers enjoying altered gravity states

Have you ever been told to lighten up? Perhaps an altered gravity state is what you need!


That is the state two York researchers found themselves in this week in Ottawa as they conducted experiments during parabolic flights on the National Research Council’s aircraft, Falcon 20. The research team was led by Prof. Michael Jenkin (left), Computer Science and Centre for Vision Research, and Prof. Laurence Harris (lower right), Biology, Psychology and Centre Vision Research (CVR).

The term “parabolic flights” refers to the profile which the plane flies. “When it ‘falls over the top of the parabola’, objects inside the plane fall at the same rate as the gravitational pull and near-weightlessness occurs,” explains James Zacher, CVR research associate and systems administrator.

“When the plane pulls out of the dive its acceleration is directly opposite to the pull of gravity, so hypergravity state occurs. If a plane descends faster than the gravitational force, a ‘negative g’ situation occurs. Occasionally, the plane may drop suddenly due to turbulence during a microgravity phase of the profile – and objects in the plane get thrown to the ceiling. Yet another exciting moment during these flights!”


Information acquired from the experiments will enhance current knowledge derived from extensive ground base research and will lead to research proposals for the longer duration missions such as on the International Space Station.

“These CRESTech- and NSERC-funded experiments examine the effects of micro- and hypergravity on image stability, object recognition and human spatial orientation with state of the art virtual reality hardware,” says Zacher.

Rounding out the microgravity team is Robert Allison, Computer Science & CVR, Heather Jenkin, CVR, Richard Dyde, CVR, James Zacher, CVR, Phil Jaekl, Biology, and Dan Zikovitz, Computer Science. Video footage of a previous experiment onboard the NRC Falcon 20 can be found at: http://www.cs.yorku.ca/~jenkin/papers/mov/microg.mov.