Can Human’s Detect Earth’s Magnetic Fields?


A researcher in US has begun experiments to study human’s ability to detect the Earth’s magnetic fields.

Geophysicist Joe Kirschvink from the California Institute of Technology based his hypothesis on how birds, insects, and some mammals seem to be able to use this sense to migrate and orient themselves with the world around them.

Although Kirschvink has so far only presented the results of a very small trial involving 24 participants, he says that he has not only been able to identify it in humans for the first time, but that his results can be repeated and verified.

Some scientists believe that the Earth’s magnetic fields could trigger quantum reactions in proteins called cryptochromes, which have been found in the retinas of birds, dogs, and even humans, though how they would feed magnetic information back to the brain is still unclear.

Kirschvink, however, theorizes that there are actually receptor cells in the body that contain very tiny ‘compass needles’ made of a magnetic iron mineral known as magnetite, which orient themselves according to Earth’s magnetic fields.


To try to prove that this ability exists in humans, Kirschvink has built a thin, aluminium box that can screen out electromagnetic background noise using wire coils called a Faraday cage. Inside the cage, people sit in the pitch black, and are only exposed to a pure magnetic field with no interference, and no other stimulus, then hooked up to EEG monitors to map their brain activity, and then applies a rotating magnetic field.

Kirschvink confirms he has been able to show that when the magnetic field is rotating counterclockwise, there’s a drop in participants’ alpha waves and stated “The suppression of a waves, in the EEG world, is associated with brain processing: a set of neurons were firing in response to the magnetic field, the only changing variable, and that the neural response was actually delayed by a few hundred milliseconds, suggesting an active brain response.

Kirschvink has just received US$900,000 in funding, and is working with labs in Japan and New Zealand to help confirm his findings.

Source: ScienceAlert

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