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Earth Science

Electromagnetic Noise Found To Affect Bird Navigation 71

Posted by timothy
from the or-did-you-mean-magnetic-north? dept.
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "A 7-year German study has come to a troubling conclusion: the EM noise from human activities is interfering with birds' magnetic 'compass' [paywalled paper, but above-average abstract], and potentially disrupting migratory behavior. While science is unclear how the birds' compasses work, it is theorized it employs the quantum phenomenon of electron spin. As the lead researcher, Prof Henrik Mouritsen, is quoted as saying, 'A very small perturbation of these electron spins would actually prevent the birds from using their magnetic compass.' The BBC has a nice summary article, as well."
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Electromagnetic Noise Found To Affect Bird Navigation

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  • by canadiannomad (1745008) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @11:35AM (#46949723) Homepage

    So if I read this right, while they are in the presence of electromagnetic fields they can't orient themselves via their internal compass, but the moment they leave that field they regain their orientation. So all they have to do is fly in any direction, and they will eventually get oriented. I'm not sure I see how big a problem this is. It would be unusual for them to experience it in nature, but it seems like something they would naturally recover from.
    Are their any studies that tell us that large numbers of migratory birds are flying the wrong direction? (as opposed to saying that they might, if they are constantly in an abnormal electromagnetic field)

When you don't know what to do, walk fast and look worried.