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Science

Some Birds Can See Magnetic Fields 238

Posted by kdawson
from the looks-dark-to-the-east dept.
jamie found a post on the Not Exactly Rocket Science blog on research indicating that some birds can literally see magnetic fields, but only if the vision in their right eye is sharp (abstract at Current Biology). "The magnetic sense of birds was first discovered in robins in 1968, and its details have been teased out ever since. Years of careful research have told us that the ability depends on light and particularly on the right eye and the left half of the brain. The details still aren’t quite clear but, for now, the most likely explanation involves a molecule called cryptochrome. Cryptochrome is found in the light-sensitive cells of a bird’s retina and scientists think that it affects just how sensitive those cells are. ... The upshot is that magnetic fields put up a filter of light or dark patches over what a bird normally sees. These patches change as the bird turns and tilts its head, providing it with a visual compass made out of contrasting shades."
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Some Birds Can See Magnetic Fields

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  • anyone else get the impression that "Cryptochrome" should be the name of some time based encryption system when they first read it?

  • some birds can literally see magnetic fields, but only if the vision in their right eye is sharp

    Given that some birds (particularly raptors) have insanely sharp distance vision, that's not really that much to ask. Any animal that can spot a rabbit on the ground hundreds of feet away has some amazing vision.

  • augmented reality (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Superken7 (893292) on Friday July 09, 2010 @09:12AM (#32850262) Journal

    augmented reality at its best.

    Makes me think what other "natural augmented reality senses" are possible, or even already exist in other species.

    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday July 09, 2010 @09:18AM (#32850322) Homepage

      Makes me think what other "natural augmented reality senses" are possible, or even already exist in other species.

      • Cats can see tuna inside the can.
      • Pit bulls can detect and track the locations of up to 300 unguarded neighborhood children simultaneously.
      • I can hear a thread that needs trolling crying out from halfway across the internets.
    • by Chapter80 (926879) on Friday July 09, 2010 @09:24AM (#32850368)

      augmented reality at its best.

      Makes me think what other "natural augmented reality senses" are possible, or even already exist in other species.

      I'm able to see stupid people at work all the time. Does that count?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by KillaBeave (1037250)
      I think technically it's not augmented reality, but rather seeing more of reality.
      • by drewhk (1744562)

        No, the OP is right, this is augmented reality, because the magnetic field information is superimposed over the vision of the bird's right eye. If it closes it's eyes, no magnetic information is perceived.

        • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday July 09, 2010 @10:04AM (#32850844) Homepage

          No, the OP is right, this is augmented reality, because the magnetic field information is superimposed over the vision of the bird's right eye. If it closes it's eyes, no magnetic information is perceived.

          But you're missing the fact that, from the bird's perspective, it's simply reality. It's not augmented, it's part of it.

          If you and I strap on a device which gives us the same vision as a bird that can see magnetic fields, that is augmented reality. If the bird closes its right eye and then re-opens is, that is not augmented reality, that's blinking. That is the natural vision of the bird.

          Augmented reality means enhanced with technology, not just better than yours. The bird has a reality which sees more than we do, but it is not, strictly speaking, augmented. Cooler maybe, but not augmented. For the same reason that relative to a color blind person, I don't have augmented vision -- I have perfectly 'standard' vision, mine just happens to see more than his.

          Now, show me a bird wearing night-vision goggles, and I'll cede the point of it being augmented reality. In the mean time, you're arguing a semantic difference that isn't valid.

          • You've got me thinking. Goggles that let me see magnetic fields haven't changed reality(*), they've just changed my ability to perceive reality. All this "augmented reality" stuff should be called augmented perception.

            (*) Assuming objectivism. I'm talking as a scientists. All you subjectivists can go have a party somewhere else.

            • Some "augmented reality" is, indeed, really just "augmented perception". Some, though, involves doing things like building video games with entirely fake enemies/objectives/etc overlaid on real environments, and that is definitely "augmented reality" if perhaps not definitely "useful"...
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by radtea (464814)

            But you're missing the fact that, from the bird's perspective, it's simply reality. It's not augmented, it's part of it.

            You clearly failed philosophy (I mean that in a good way.) One of the big differences between philosophers and scientists is that philosophers still think that there's something interesting about human perceptions and human scales, rather than them just accidentally being the ones we happen to have access to.

            By limiting themselves to the scale of human perceptions in every respect philosophers ensure that their conclusions will virtually never be about reality, but only about the irrelevant accidents of hu

            • by Omestes (471991) <omestes@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Friday July 09, 2010 @11:49AM (#32852018) Homepage Journal

              You clearly failed philosophy (I mean that in the bad way).

              Philosophy has moved on quite a bit since Plato. Contemporary philosophy does understand that things exist outside of a human scale, and discusses it quite a bit. Philosophy is a moving target, it generally is always one small step ahead or behind science, but there is always a decent amount of interlap.

              A lot of scientists do philosophy, and a lot of modern philosophers are giant science junkies.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by radtea (464814)

                A lot of scientists do philosophy, and a lot of modern philosophers are giant science junkies.

                Then why does anyone teach logics where Leibniz's Law is true, given that it is false, has known to be false for over half a century, and this falsity has profound everyday consequences?

                In the areas I'm interested in--identity theory, empiricist epistemology, ontology, and ethical choice under uncertainty--I am not aware of anyone working in the fields who has anything resembling a grasp of the relevant science done in the past half-century.

                With regard to epistemological and ontological questions, for exam

        • we have sterioscopic vision, most birds dont, is that augmented reality too?

        • by pnewhook (788591)

          No it not augmented. Just like a colour blind person doesn't think that a person with normal vision is perceiving augmented reality. The information is there we just cannot see it.

    • Re:augmented reality (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday July 09, 2010 @09:31AM (#32850450) Journal
      Given that the number of things that you can sense without breaking the known laws of physics is limited, we have reasonably informed basis for speculation, plus a lot of field data:

      Electromagnetic radiation: everything from pretty longwave IR to UV is well documented(IR in certain snake's heat-sensor pits, UV in some insects, "visible light" is obvious enough) There are certain radiotrophic fungi [wikipedia.org], which can perform a process analogous to photosynthesis; but with gamma radiation. This isn't a directly sensory function; but it does imply that there is a biologically produce-able molecule, in the wild, that could serve as the basis of a gamma-ray vision system(if not, perhaps, a very fast one) The unknown(at least for me) is radio waves. I've never heard of anything using them; but organisms with conductive structures linked to their nervous systems are potential suspects....

      Magnetic fields: Confirmed in birds and some insects; both as a 'compass-like' directional sense, and as a visual signal. And, since electricity and magnetism are related, anything with reasonably high-resolution magnetic sensors can detect electrical currents, as well.

      Sound waves: Confirmed, obviously enough, across a pretty wide frequency band in all sorts of species, both as a conventional 'hearing' sense, and for detection and ranging.

      Chemicals: Anything with a sense of smell is a pretty sensitive chemical detector, some better than others. Even bacteria can follow chemical gradients, and animals with sophisticated olfactory systems can detect tens or hundred of thousands of chemicals, and at fairly low concentrations...

      Electrical currents: Sharks, possibly among others, can sense the electrical impulses that make your muscles move at distances long enough to make this a useful hunting tool. Don't know if anyone else has picked up this trick...

      Can anyone think of other physical phenomena that may or may not have biological sensors capable of detecting it, and any known cases?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Garble Snarky (715674)
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephantnose [wikipedia.org] - this fish can generate and sense electrical impulses. This seems to be a unique ability.
        • Electric eels can, I think do something similar. Its ability to generate high-powered stunning or lethal pulses for hunting and defense is pretty dramatic; but it also has a system for generating weak pulses for active electrolocation.

          At the New England Aquarium, they have one in a tank wired up with sensors that convert electrical activity to sound, pretty neat to listen to it in action...
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by mrsurb (1484303)

        Electrical currents: Sharks, possibly among others, can sense the electrical impulses that make your muscles move at distances long enough to make this a useful hunting tool. Don't know if anyone else has picked up this trick...

        The platypus also has this. It's called electro-reception.

        Can anyone think of other physical phenomena that may or may not have biological sensors capable of detecting it, and any known cases?

        Don't know of any biological sense to detect radiation (alpha, beta, gamma). I also know that my wife lacks the sense for detecting my humour.

        • Does she lack the capacitor for nerd puns?

          As for radiation detection, would it be cheating to count closing your eyes and detecting the Cherenkov radiation produced by the interaction of beta radiation with your vitreous humor? It is kind of indirect; but more than a few sensors work by having one stage that converts what you want to measure into something easy to measure, ideally more or less linearly, and then a second stage that actually measures it...
        • by gstoddart (321705)

          I also know that my wife lacks the sense for detecting my humour.

          Ah, but ask yourself, is she the one who is truly lacking?

          Or do you have maybe a second geek-humor chromosome? I've encountered that one before. :-P

    • And still makes me wonder what else is involved in their navigation given the steady change in magnetic declination over time.

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      Its not augmented reality, its just reality to the birds.

    • In ten years, when we all have bionic eyes, they can be set to detect arbitrary bands of the EM spectrum (or anything that can image, like sonar/ultrasound, Geiger counters, etc.), and you'll be able to switch between various options at will.

      • by delinear (991444)
        Although in practice most people will just keep one tuned to normal vision and one to the pr0n channel.
    • by gsslay (807818)

      Unless you think that magnetic fields are not real, this isn't augmented reality. All that is happening is that birds can detect the part of reality that is magnetic fields, and have "chosen" to represent them as shades.

      In the same way humans can detect electro-magnetic waves in a variety of wavelengths, and have "chosen" to represent this as 'color'. Neither case involves "augmenting" reality, they only involve choices in how reality is detected and represented.

    • Makes me think what other "natural augmented reality senses" are possible, or even already exist in other species.

      In our own species, some claim to be able to perceive life-force energy in a multitude of fashions, e.g., tactile, sight, taste, etc. The entire energy-healing paradigm is based on this premise.

    • augmented reality at its best.

      Makes me think what other "natural augmented reality senses" are possible, or even already exist in other species.

      Makes me wonder what possible need drove evolution of this as a survival trait...

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      That wouldn't be augmented reality, as it's the species' natural ability. If you wear glasses, contact lenses, hearing aids, or implants for sight or hearing, that's augmented reality. If their reality is augmented, what is it augmented by?

      By your definition we have augmented reality since our vision is so much better than dogs, while dogs have augmented reality since their sense of smell is thousands of times keener than ours.

  • Tech version? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by x_IamSpartacus_x (1232932) on Friday July 09, 2010 @09:14AM (#32850284)
    I'd love to see a Tech version of this. I may be completely ignorant and it may already exist but it seems like, since we now know the science of how to see magnetic fields, we could develop an artificial "eye" so to speak, that could do this. It would be neat to look at power lines or just browse the city and see the magnetic fields cast off by different infrastructure.
    • Well, thats not so far away, it MIGHT even already be possible.

      I know I've seen a few Hubble pictures, and they take the ultraviolet and Gamma rays that we generally can't see and put them into the visible spectrum to help show exactly whats going on in the random nebulas and stars that they find. Kind of like how night vision goggles usually just slide the infrared spectrum into light spectrum, (though I've never understood why green).

      Magnetic fields are a little different than other parts of the EM spectr

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Kind of like how night vision goggles usually just slide the infrared spectrum into light spectrum, (though I've never understood why green).

        Well, there are two possible reasons. First is it might not spoil your night vision. Second is that the eye has a much better sensitivity to green than red or blue, so sliding the spectrum to green lets the eye pick up more details than it otherwise would. Maybe a combination of the two.

        Just guesses, though, no evidence to back it up either way (other than the eye is m

    • by Zerth (26112)

      You wouldn't see the magnetic fields surrounding an object in all directions, you'd only see those that intersected with your head.

      You probably wouldn't even be able to tell what object was emitting them without moving around.

      • Isn't it as simple as sending a wave of charged particles out, and seeing what gets abnormally deflected, like Radar?

        (not that the sending or tracking of what comes back is a trivial task, but I think this would work in theory for looking at magnetic objects).

    • by alexhs (877055)

      Well there definitely is a low-tech version [wikipedia.org] ;)

    • Re:Tech version? (Score:5, Informative)

      by david.given (6740) <dgNO@SPAMcowlark.com> on Friday July 09, 2010 @09:48AM (#32850650) Homepage Journal
      You may be interested in Haidinger's Brush [polarization.com]: it's basically an undocumented feature of the human eye that allows you, with practice, to see polarised light. It works due to one of the pigments in the eye being sensitive to polarised light (they think), producing a distinctive pattern when you observe strongly polarised light. By observing this pattern you can determine the direction of polarisation.
      • I remember when I first noticed that effect myself a few years ago. Or at least what I think was that effect.

        It happened early one morning when I woke up before sunrise. I suddenly noticed that the sky directly above me looked similar to how the bottom of a swimming pool looks on a sunny day, with ripples and patches moving all over the place.

        It is easier for me to see it in the morning twilight when my eyes are usually fully dark adapted, as opposed to the evening when Im probably around brighter sourc

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      As a belt : http://www.monkeysandrobots.com/hapticcompass [monkeysandrobots.com]
      As glasses : http://hackaday.com/2010/07/08/stylin-hmd/ [hackaday.com]
    • by SharpFang (651121)

      As for -seeing- them, not easy. But there were implants into fingers that allowed you to sense electric current and magnetic fields with fingertips. I've even seen an easier, non-permanent less sensitive solution - magnetic needles implanted into upper surface of nails.

      It is quite common with people who work a lot with renovation/construction - finding wires in walls before drilling.

  • Maybe some biologists can answer this.. but why haven't humans or other mammalian species evolved to see/detect/transmit infrared or microwave radio? It seems that long neurons could act as conductor antennas. No evolutionary advantage? Just the night sensing possibilities alone seem worthwhile.

    -molo

    • by Culture20 (968837)
      Some humans seem to be able to see a little further into UV, but nothing like chickens or certain insects.
      • by hedwards (940851)
        I thought that was IR, but I suppose just due to the irregularity and imprecision of what exactly constitutes the visible spectrum, it wouldn't be constrained to one side. I noticed years ago that in the dark I'd see these clouds which would mysteriously take the form of items in the room. The color would be this unnatural white purple or golden green. Eventually I noticed that it could be used to see even when there was no meaningful difference of color in the items.
      • by mister_playboy (1474163) on Friday July 09, 2010 @09:38AM (#32850522)

        Specifically, females with a 4th set of cones [post-gazette.com].

      • by Zerth (26112)

        The lens in the human eye blocks UV. People who have had their lenses removed have reported being able to detect UV, but it looks a lot like purple.

        Also, the human eye can see a teensy bit of near infrared, depending on where you put the distinction between red and IR. However, it requires goggles that only passes IR and a really bright IR source(sunny day or a IR flood lamp).

      • Spy vs Spy (Score:5, Interesting)

        by westlake (615356) on Friday July 09, 2010 @09:54AM (#32850710)

        Some humans seem to be able to see a little further into UV, but nothing like chickens or certain insects.

        In WWII the OSS recruited elderly volunteers with cataracts who could see into the UV range. They were posted as coast watchers for communication with submarines and landing parties.

        One of the best reads around for the real world of spy tech is Stanley Lovell's Of Spies and Stratagems. Lovell was the OSS "Moriarty" - a later generation would see him "Q," and no less an enthusiastic, inventive and deadly prankster.

    • We don't know that other mammals CAN'T do this, but as for humans, we haven't evolved to process infrared or microwaves for the same reason we haven't grown gills for breathing underwater: It's not necessary to the species.
    • well, evolution only favors a trait if it lets you have more babies... as humans have been diurnal pretty much from the get-go, the advantage of great night vision is lessened because we are generally asleep at that time. As for mirowave... not a lot of that makes it down to the surface of the earth, things would be quite dark at mw wavelengths.

      heck, the ability to see blue is fairly recient (in evolutionary terms) whereas we have seen green and red a lot longer. This is why blue things tend to catch the

      • by samkass (174571)

        Besides, in order for evolution to change a trait in a species, it has to occur in someone naturally through random mutation, viral gene swaps, new enzymes activating a new combination of genes, etc. Without genetic engineering, you might have to wait millions of years for that event, at which point humans might not even exist any longer.

    • by RivenAleem (1590553) on Friday July 09, 2010 @09:31AM (#32850448)

      Why would you need night vision if you are able to survive the day?

      Animals with great night vision tend to have it because it is not safe for them to be out and about during the day when the majority of predators are up and about. Consequently a number of predators themselves developed night vision (they didn't develop it, just that predators with night vision were able to find a niche, see below). I'm assuming you mean to ask why humans didn't evolve the abilities, the answer is simple: we are well capable of being active throughout the day, and decide instead to rest at night.

      Even though it is possible to push a human's visible spectrum into the IR range, with a long treatment of Vitamin A (http://www.edkeyes.org/blog/050825.html), there is no point in doing so, as it's not needed as a survival tool.

      The same goes for microwave radio. We do not need it to be superior to all other animals on the planet, so there has never been a reason for why it would develop.

      You have to remember that evolution is the process whereby an animal mutates randomly and a trait appears, if that animal survives to reproduce (not killed off by something) then that trait is passed on to a new generation. If that mutation proves negative to survival, chances are the animal dies and does not get to pass on that trait to next generation.

      You can't simply expect a need for night vision to present itself, and in response the body evolves in order to comply with that need.

    • Maybe some biologists can answer this.. but why haven't humans or other mammalian species evolved to see/detect/transmit infrared or microwave radio? It seems that long neurons could act as conductor antennas. No evolutionary advantage? Just the night sensing possibilities alone seem worthwhile.

      -molo

      That's pretty much it. The reason we've evolved to be able to see the frequencies we can see is that those are the most useful. For example, at an extreme end, if your eyes could only see gamma radiation, everything would be completely black all the time, unless you were right next to some radioactive material. Microwaves too would be pretty useless from an evolutionary standpoint: there are basically no sources of naturally occurring microwaves on earth; again, if you could only see in microwaves, you'd be

    • by mikael (484)

      We can see infra-red - if you put an infra-red filter (Hoya) over your eyes, and let them adjust in a dark room, you will be able to see around in infra-red. But that frequency of light gets washed out by the stronger blue-green-yellow light from the sky, grass and sea. Infra-red is only useful if you are hunting in caves or at dusk/dawn like a snake.

    • by cowscows (103644)

      As others have mentioned, our sight is optimized towards daylight hours, because that's when humans are generally active. And while adding some cool night vision capabilities could certainly be useful in some cases, there's only so much room in the eyeball to shove more sensory cells in, and so any changes to allow infrared detection would likely come at the expense of reduced capabilities in the daytime. In the course of our evolution, that trade-off didn't work out.

      Evolution is a series of biological comp

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      It's not impossible that we are actually able to sense some other frequencies of light with other organs. A mundane example is the ability to sense strong IR sources with your skin :)

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Probably because it's an evolutionary deadend to go tumbling around the night with halfassed night vision. You're very unlikely to catch something, very likely to become pray or simply injure yourself. Those who survived were probably those who decided it's dark as fuck, let's return to base and live to fight another day. It's not like we're terribly poor in extreme low light, if you go camping in a remote area with no fire we see well enough for close quarter combat. And maybe that comes with a penalty for

    • One could say that Wings could also be an evolutionary advantage, or claws, or thicker skin.

      I think you are a little confused on how evolution really works. It's not a "This would be advantageous, lets slowly change" kind of thing. It's not more than a "Our environment requires this to survive" sort of thing. It's more like "My species will die if we do not evolve. Lets hope my babies are different. Roll 2 D20s"

    • For IR, it's because we're warm blooded. If our eyes could detect far-IR (like a FLIR camera), it would see nothing but a white fog since the eye is already at that temperature.

      Snakes can sense far-IR because they are cold blooded. Even then, they don't do it that well because the temperature difference between their sensors (which are in the nose) and a mammal isn't that much.

      As for near-IR, it's just not useful. It makes for pretty photography effects, but it doesn't help you at night or day.

    • by Landak (798221)
      Evolution doesn't particularly care if something is good, just if it is "good enough". We've evolved to the great humbling oafs that we are now throughout a variety of intermediate stages -- but all of them have something in common: we've been on earth, and, it is believed, underwater. Let me just show you two graphs; one of the measured absorption coefficient of water [umd.edu] (beware the axes: it's a semi-logarithmic plot), and, secondly, the absorption spectrum of the atmosphere [helpsavetheclimate.com]. If you look at one and then the o
    • by geekoid (135745)

      Because we found a different way to gt what we need to survive.

      Plus, what advantage would seeing microwaves have? It would just be noise.

      At night, our eyes are pretty darn good. Go into an environment with no artificial lights and no moon. Using just star light you will be able to move and see basic shapes. Yes, some animals are better, but we have communities to keeps us safe from night predators...safe enough anyways.

      Evolution is lazy. it tries to do the bare minimum to get it done.

    • by radtea (464814)

      but why haven't humans or other mammalian species evolved to see/detect/transmit infrared or microwave radio?

      We can detect IR at short range. It's called heat. I'm not kidding.

      Long-range image forming sensors outside the visible haven't formed because they aren't needed, and in any case there's a notch about ten orders of magnitude deep in the absorption spectrum of water that precisely overlaps the visible spectrum. When your primary sensor is made out of water there is very strong evolutionary pressure to limit the range of sensitivty to the range where water is reasonably transparent.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Seeing microwave would serve no evolutionary purpose, and as we're diurnal creatures there's no evolutionary push for infrared vision. I suspect (perhaps a biologist here can say) that cats can see infrared.

  • ..encompassing article from /.

    Just wanted to needle the editors a bit.

  • You leave blind--blind-- BLIND.

  • I would love to see Stephin Merritt perform live.

  • EM pollution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tee-rav (1029032)
    If the temporal resolution of the cytochrome signal matches that of "normal" vision, birds with this ability can likely see individual oscillations of EM fields up to ~50Hz. What do faster-oscillating fields look like to such a bird? Do they interfere with the bird's normal vision? Strobe lights come to mind as an analogue.
    • by imgod2u (812837)

      They may very well alias into the bird's vision range. But I imagine that with all the EM going around, their visual processing center most likely filters that out.

  • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Friday July 09, 2010 @10:16AM (#32850934)

    As a child, I found that if I were to walk under/near certain transformers, I started to see black waves at the very edge of my vision. I couldn't really describe it as they tended to be fairly quick, and explaining to somone just what waves of black at the edge of your vision would look like was/is difficult.

    I grew up near a steel mill, and their furnaces were electric, and on a hill near where I lived there was this MASSIVE collection of electrical equipment (Transformers, relays, etc). If I were to walk along the outer perimiter of this area, I would see those waves again.

    I've noticed this my entire life, and it happens rarely, but is always associated with electrical equipment. I also got the same 'waves' when I accidentally grabbed a makeshift fishing worm extractor (essentially an AC cord attached to a long metal rod you stick in the ground) I DEFINITELY saw the waves in my vision then (and nearly was electrocuted).

    Now, is this something that other people have in the presence of very large em fields? Or did I stick a nail up my nose when I was a toddler and forgot about it?

    It's not magic in any case, so I don't think I could go for Randi's offer right?

    • by geekoid (135745)

      You should actually be tested. What you describe seem suspiciously like confirmation bias.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by shadowofwind (1209890)

      Some people claim to be able to see people's 'auras'. Maybe they're also seeing E&M fields.

      Or maybe its confirmation bias, as suggested by geekoid. Or maybe they're lying for gain or attention, as so many are prone to do. Or maybe they're really seeing auras, whatever those are.

      Scientists typically study things that can be measured and repeated reliably. If your senses do something that's unusual and difficult to demonstrate to others, there's a class of people that assumes you're probably delusiona

      • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Friday July 09, 2010 @12:31PM (#32852502)

        So it does not surprise me at all to hear that some people can see E&M fields

        I also don't want to come across as delusional, and I don't really see EM fields like a lot of people claim. It's just that when I was younger, and (confirmation bias maybe) in the presence of transformers. I saw a slight wavy blackness at the edge of my vision.

        It's possible that more people get this all the time, and just don't notice it. It is very slight, and very transient. The transformer I walked past to check it out was also later determined to be malfunctioning (it began arcing electricity a year later).

        It could be a completely benign aspect as well, and thus not really influenced by evolutionary pressures. I'm sure that until the 20th century, the chances of someone being exposed to a strong EM field were pretty low (Excepting thunderstorms perhaps), and since getting struck by lightning often has other warning signs (Like a giant ass thundercloud), being able to slightly see/feel the EM field isn't that advantageous.

        For all I know, I could have just ingested too much iron as a kid and a strong field messes with something in my retina.

        I don't even know if my vision is still good enough to produce the effect again. I think I am going to go take a walk past some places where I remember it happened and see if it occurs again. If it does, I'll definately contact Randi.

        I'd have to think of some test conditions too. Maybe a bright room with no variation in the lighting or colors. Incandescent bulbs or sunlight would be nice for producing light with no extra EM fields. Some sort of wall housing the equipment to produce a field that I can't see. A computer randomly generating a control signal for the equipment. Maybe give me a dial that I can turn to indicate how strong the waves I'm seeing are.

        Heh, as a test engineer, this could be fun.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by BikeHelmet (1437881)

        Some people claim to be able to see people's 'auras'. Maybe they're also seeing E&M fields.

        I bet we'd have more people with extra senses, if we hadn't burned them all a couple centuries ago. :P

  • Every time you are near?
    Just like me, they long to be
    inducted to you.

  • Interesting (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Windwraith (932426)

    This can explain why birds never stop moving their heads. I always thought they were scanning the area for possible hazards, food or companions, or positioning their heads to receive sounds better, but this gives a new possibility to their constant head tilting (which I find adorable by the way).

    Birds are so underrated by us humans.

  • Were these European swallows, or African swallows?
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Friday July 09, 2010 @02:25PM (#32853906)

    I suspect having Iron in your body has something to do with it.

    I was walking through a mall and was nearly knocked on my arse once by a weird field I entered. It felt a bit like bringing two magnets close together N to N. My girlfriend felt it too and we both reeled back a step and looked at each other.

    Turns out, there was a giant old black and white TV screen from the seventies hanging overhead and displaying video from some security feed. It was cool, because we could walk in and out of the field and really feel it strongly each time. I was so intrigued that I wanted to call people over to check it out, but I was also feeling really woozy and the only people around were old ladies and other K Mart Shopper types who wouldn't have understood the significance.

    I don't react that way most of the time, but I'd been meditating and doing lots of energy work that month. My perceptions were pretty raw and being in a mall was quite overwhelming. I ended up sitting outside to breathe it off. That's the downside to opening yourself up; the sickness of society can really burn you out. I think most people just have strong blocks in place so that they don't notice this stuff normally, like being around a bad smell for a long time makes it sort of fade in the perceptions.

    -FL

The trouble with opportunity is that it always comes disguised as hard work. -- Herbert V. Prochnow

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