Science & Technology
Can humans sense the Earth's magnetic field ?
By T.K. Randall
March 22, 2020 · 17 comments
Humans appear to possess some level of magnetoreception. Image Credit: NASA / Peter Reid
The results of a recent experiment suggest that it is not just animals that can sense our planet's magnetism.
It might sound like one of the X-Men's mutant powers, but according to scientists, the idea that we possess 'magnetoreceptors' that can pick up Earth's natural magnetism may not be that far-fetched.
Last year, Caltech geophysicist Joseph Kirschvink and neuroscientist Shin Shimojo set up an experiment that involved building a chamber that could filter out any outside interference.
Participants were then placed inside the chamber (which was itself placed inside a Faraday Cage) while their brainwaves were monitored via electroencephalogram (EEG).
Each session lasted about an hour and the participants were tasked with remaining stationary while the chamber was configured to rotate the magnetic field repeatedly.
Although none of the people taking part were able to consciously sense anything, their brain readings revealed that they had actually picked up "a strong, specific human brain response."
"Our results indicate that human brains are indeed collecting and selectively processing directional input from magnetic field receptors," the researchers concluded.
"Such neural activity is a necessary prerequisite for any subsequent behavioral expression of magnetoreception, and it represents a starting point for testing whether such an expression exists."
Interestingly, just like in animals such as birds which use the Earth's magnetic field to migrate, the human subjects appeared to sense the magnetic field as a direct biological signal.
Could this be some leftover perception our ancestors once used many thousands of years ago ?
Do we still unconsciously use this magnetic sense in our everyday lives without realizing it ?
The search for answers continues.
Source: Popular Mechanics
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