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Special Molecule Gives Birds a Magnetic Biocompass

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the bio-magneto-driver dept.

276

Aaron Rowe writes "CORDIS news reports that a team of scientists has identified a family of molecules called cryptochromes that allow migratory birds to sense magnetic fields. Curiously enough, these molecules only function when accompanied by blue light. The article also mentions, 'The researchers also suggest that, as cryptochromes have been strongly conserved throughout evolution, all biological organisms could have the ability to detect magnetic fields, even if they do not use them.'"

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276 comments

lol (0, Troll)

r3st2 (987153) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086035)

i think it is teh funnyz

Does this mean (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086044)

/.'s can migrate to the North Pole

Hrm... (5, Funny)

PieSquared (867490) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086045)

Where do I sign up to get these powers enabled? I totally would go for it, even if it is a really lame 6th or 7th sense. Like, if I was lost in the woods with no cell phone and nothing to make a shadow with, and no running water... it could be mildly useful!

Re:Hrm... (2, Informative)

RM6f9 (825298) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086051)

Lost in the woods... nothing to make a shadow with...
r-i-g-h-t.
thank you for the chuckle.

Re:Hrm... (1)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086071)

You're not talking about the basement? right?

Re:Hrm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086106)

Ummm...it requires a blue light. So if you were "lost in the woods with no cell phone and nothing to make a shadow with" this still wouldnt help you. Of course, you could just have a blue light on you and choose to not make shadow puppets... ... no you couldn't

Re:Hrm... (1)

PieSquared (867490) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086222)

It says blue light, not "A" blue light. I don't see birds carrying around a light... but they do have the light of the sun, even reflected off clouds. White light is made up of all colors... yellow, red, green, purple, orange... some you can't see... and blue. You can see this the way neuton discovered it, by placing a crystal in sunlight. (oh, and the shadow... place a stick in the sun such that there is no shadow, and wait... as the sun moves west a shadow appears about to the east. Just for anyone who didn't allready know that.)

Re:Shadow... (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086266)

Dude, you're made out of stuff that casts a shadow, unless there's no light.
Though several of the proceeding posts appear to take one or both of these into account.

Re:Hrm... (3, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086309)

You can see this the way neuton discovered it

Are you referring to the legendary Jake Neuton, illegitimate scion of a brief, but passionate affair between Sir Isaac Newton and an uncharged subatomic particle, and author of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Typographica?

You have Navigation Lite Installed (3, Funny)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086145)

This comes bundled with Human Condtion V1.0. For $19.99 you can upgrade to Navigation Power User.... or you can wait for MS Vista.

Re:Hrm... (4, Funny)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086284)

"Where do I sign up to get these powers enabled?"

It's a BIOS setting. You have to turn it on at conception.

This explains a lot.... (0)

slack-fu (940017) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086046)

This explains a lot, like how i feel more at peace while surrounded by wifi fields and the magnetic fields of my computer.

This explains that feeling you get from a BSOD (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086163)

I think it is the blue that attracts my fist towards the screen.

Are those... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086060)

Are those the same ones in men which turn a simple road trip into an interstate chase for hamburgers, fireworks, and boos that ultimatly end badly?

Seems bout' right.

Re:Are those... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086165)

Are those the same ones in men which turn a simple road trip into an interstate chase for hamburgers, fireworks, and boos that ultimatly end badly?

I don't know whether you meant booze or boobs, but hey, either way, I'll chip in for gas!

My brother-in-law does sense it (4, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086063)

When he gets off the plane at DIA, his first question is which way to north. Once he has his berings, he always knows his directions. Even when traveling through the mountains, day or night, he is able to figure out the direction quickly. Pretty impressive. What I find interesting is that plane travels screws him up. Once on the ground, If he does not get his bearing quickl, he appears to get more uncomfortable as time passes.

Re:My brother-in-law does sense it (4, Interesting)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086116)

We do have a built-in gyroscope, though not a compass. I'm pretty sure guys have a stronger sense of it then girls. Makes sense... hunting and all.

I have a good sense of direction, but now and then I get all messed up. It's a really strange feeling when I realize this has happened, and the internal gyro has to flip 180 degrees. There's a sense of the world shifting, almost like motion.

Re:My brother-in-law does sense it (1)

fotbr (855184) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086133)

I can usually find north, though I like to think I have a built in Inertial Guidance System rather than something as simple and mundane as a gyroscope and compass.

Re:My brother-in-law does sense it (1)

Wizarth (785742) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086148)

I have much the same thing. But I also have a special case.

First time I visted a friends house, it was night time, and my sense of direction got flipped (I also wasn't driving). It now seems to be stuck that way. I can drive out there and tell exactly when my sense of north does a 180. Driving through a cutout in a hill, can't see anything but the sides of the trench, when coming from one direction, and from the other direction its a set of curves that are bounded in by dense trees.

So, gyroscope, yes, but it can be confused/overriden by what you think you know.

Re:My brother-in-law does sense it (3, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086153)

This guy is able to tell you north, south, east, and west in mountain canyons, or even in buildings. He is not able to give degrees, but he can point in roughly 30-45 degree increments. Pretty impressive. Over the years, I have been impressed with some capabilities. One guy that I knew had 6/20 vision. He had doctors everywhere wanting to study his eyes. But he wanted to be a pilot so told them to take a hike.

Re:My brother-in-law does sense it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086231)

You can tell the direction by the sun, stars, and moon. It's not that impressive.

Re:My brother-in-law does sense it (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086314)

Do it inside a building without windows and after you have been led around in an cave-like walk-ways. While I use to doubt that it was possible, after watching tom get through a building (new to him but I knew the directions), he knew which way was which, better than me.It is VERY impressive. In fact, others are commenting that they have that ability. The fact that you are posting here as an AC, tells me that you, like me, do not have that ability.

Re:My brother-in-law does sense it (1)

Henneshoe (987210) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086424)

Can he figure out which way is North at the North Pole? What about East and West? And, does it depend if we are talking true north or magnetic north?

Re:My brother-in-law does sense it (3, Insightful)

cryptoluddite (658517) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086466)

All the things you've said are really pretty easy to do by consciously or unsconsciously updating your bearings by observation. Most human-made buildings are highly regular, even when designed to be confusing. Many times there are subtle clues that you don't pick up on that he probably does, such as the distant hum of a generator or type of vibration in the floor or the grain of the carpet.

These feats are nothing special really. Everybody has them to some degree, whether it is direction, or time, or reading expressions, or perfect pitch, or anything else. For instance I can set a 20 min pizza timer and go play a video game, pause it, and walk out with <5 seconds left on the timer. This happens very often. Do I have some magic genes that give me some digital internal chronometer? Doubtful, more likely I just have it in the back of my mind all the time.

Re:My brother-in-law does sense it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086292)

One guy that I knew had 6/20 vision. He had doctors everywhere wanting to study his eyes.
So, he has to get within 6 feet to read what normal people can read at 20 feet? I'd be much more impressed with 20/6 vision. A hawk has 20/2 vision.

Re:My brother-in-law does sense it (1)

Phleg (523632) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086458)

I take MARTA (Atlanta transit) into school every day. Once, I had to use a station I'm not familiar with. I normally have an impeccable sense of direction, so I get up on the platform and go to the "Southbound" side. I zone out, the train comes, and I hop in and open a book. About 15 minutes later, I hear the conductor say this is the last Northbound stop, which makes me do a double-take. Even returning to that station later in the night, and trying to figure out the direction I'm facing based on how I drove in there, I still can't understand how the poles "feel" reversed in that area.

Re:My brother-in-law does sense it (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086169)

Even when traveling through the mountains, day or night, he is able to figure out the direction quickly.

Use of the sun by day or stars by night.

What I find interesting is that plane travels screws him up. Once on the ground, If he does not get his bearing quickl (sic), he appears to get more uncomfortable as time passes.

Jetlag or simple fatigue from air travel.

Re:My brother-in-law does sense it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086258)

I have a similar sense of direction. In two physical locations it fails me.
1) As a small child, visiting my grandparents many miles away, I would wake up at night and get transferred to a bed upon arriving. To this day (30 years later,) I have North and South confused around that house.
2) More recently, as an adult, I flew into LAX for the first time and was mildly confused as to North and South. Now, every time I fly into LAX there is a 2-3 mile zone around the airport in which I am confused as to direction. Once I leave that zone, my internal compass rights itself.

Re:My brother-in-law does sense it (1)

DanielG42 (906032) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086351)

I also have a fairly good sense of direction most of the time. However, once I've flown on an airplane, I lose it for a couple of days. After I've found which way is north though, I'm normally able to transition fairly quickly. It's rather irritating when you're "sure" that the compasses are all pointing the wrong direction and that the sun has decided to travel from north to south.

Radio (4, Funny)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086067)

And since radio is just a modulated electromagnetic signal, we should be able to pick up Rock 'n Roll on our teeth by exposing them to blue LEDs. It remains only to train our brains to understand this new sixth sense...

Re:Radio (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086319)

No the entire nervous system has to be retuned. And that's how to get the power. At one level it involves playing with magnets and coordinating the physical tug with the magnetic pulse. At another level, it can be done with antennas and conversion of a source signal to something already perceivable. It also requires that the nervous system properly combine low-level samples from individual nerves into one signal, so if your nervous system is poor in that area, exercises to improve in that area would be useful as well.

My guess is that blue light isn't "required" so much as it amplifies the signal, which is to say that more sensitive pickups, or better combining, could make it work without blue light at all.

Reminds me of a Bill Bailey joke (4, Funny)

Centurix (249778) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086068)

Where he was reading Brief History of Time and read "light is effected by gravity", to which he concluded that it was easier to drop things in the dark.

-1 offtopic.

Mind you, maybe I could strap a blue LED to an albatross and find my way home when I'm drunk.

+1 ontopic.

Re:Reminds me of a Bill Bailey joke (1)

njh (24312) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086465)

Actually, light is effected by photons. It is, however, affected by gravity.

Direction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086078)

Truly gives a whole new meaning to "A good sense of direction"

I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (-1, Offtopic)

TheDarkener (198348) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086081)

This has NOTHING to do with this story, and I apologize.

How come there are no 9/11/2001 stories today on Slashdot? Did we all forget? Is it not important enough anymore to warrant a story?

It's not only insulting, but downright strange that there hasn't been ONE main story about it today. What the hell is going on?

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086102)

I think you need to read nyc.slashdot.org

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086105)

Just a guess, but maybe people and moving on with their lives. It wasnt the end of the world.

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086115)

I was wondering the same thing when I cheked in this evening.

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086125)

Hmm, between the 24 hour news network's focus on 9/11, nearly all my RSS feed speiling off 9/11 headlings, my news sites providing indepth coverage, and of course any remotely entertaining channel running 9/11 specials since friday, I hadn't even noticed. I would perfer not to have a 9/11 story unless its new news; I don't want to sound insensitive but anything and everything that could possibly be said or shown has been running reel-to-reel everywhere else today.

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (3, Insightful)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086126)

Scroll up. Look. "NEWS FOR NERDS. STUFF THAT MATTERS." In what way does it matter that the Earth has rotated around the Sun approximately 5 times since 9/11/2001? And it's certainly not news, last time I checked the Earth went round the Sun every year. And there's definitely nothing nerdy about this - unless you mean the general nerdy interest in mayhem and destruction.

...downright strange that there hasn't been ONE main story about it today.
Are you expecting /. to manufacture news just to fit the theme you expect?

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (-1, Troll)

TheDarkener (198348) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086175)

I'm sorry, but you are an idiot.

Can you even think of the science behind 9/11? Can't one story pose monument to it? How about how the buildings were structured? The theories behind it? How they just 'fell straight down'...isn't that a scientific and physical miracle??

I, for one, was looking for a non-mainstream story on 9/11, not the ABC story or the CNN story or whatever else the hypnotube is showing today.

I thought there could be some smart discussion. I guess this isn't the place for it anymore - just flamers and people who put you down for speaking your mind.

Fuck you. Try thinking before you react like that toward another human being.

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086334)

How they just 'fell straight down'...isn't that a scientific and physical miracle??

Well, OK, that's a nerdy topic, though a proper nerd wouldn't have any need to invoke "miracles," and would simply say "not immediately how I would have thought something like that would happen."

You can read a pretty good discussion of the collapse here [wikipedia.org] . The article helps you understand why the "hollow" design of the buildings, and the fact that the gypsom facade allowed the jet fuel to spill largely into the core of the building and thoroughly ignite all sorts of material already in the building (like untold tons of paper). The cross beams would have started weakening very quickly at the temperatures involved. What would have really been astounding would have been if one or both towers actually toppled to the side. The floors above the impact points did tilt some as the supports gave way, but that became a non-issue once all that mass started sandwiching down.

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (1)

Mattintosh (758112) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086389)

Smart discussion left "9/11" behind approximately 4 years ago. There was intelligent discussion to be had until 9/11/2002. After that, nothing good could come of it, and the topic became flamebait.

Besides, they already knew how the buildings were structured, and gravity has been fairly well understood (in a scientific sense) for a couple hundred years now (at least the "stuff falls down" part that would've been applicable in the WTC collapse).

It's unfortunate that we can't have smart discussion, but there are too many lunatics and overly-emotional people who enjoy whining to make that possible.

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086218)

Actually, the Earth has ROTATED 1,811 times since 9/11/01, and it did it around its axis, not the Sun.

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (1)

TempeTerra (83076) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086239)

Speaking of which, where is Roland Piquepaille?

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (1)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086289)

Are you expecting /. to manufacture news just to fit the theme you expect?

It seems to have no problem doing that when it's critizing the Bush Administration.

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (-1, Offtopic)

qbwiz (87077) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086131)

I'm sorry, but I think you're five years out of date. 9/11/2001 was a very important day, but I believe that everyone's heard of it by new, and there aren't really any new stories that will add to our understanding of it. It isn't really "News for Nerds" (although it was "Stuff that Matters").

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (1)

Z1NG (953122) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086132)

Because it isn't news, and certainly isn't specifically for "nerds" (though clearly it does fit under the stuff that matters banner). It was a horrific tradgedy, and by all means should be remembered, mourned and prevented from ever happening again. However, why is it insulting that it doesn't show up on a tech news site five years later?

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (4, Funny)

Rix (54095) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086141)

Oh get over it already. All of you have been running around like a little girl with a skinned knee for 5 damned years. Suck it up.

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (0, Offtopic)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086147)

I suspect there will also be no stories featuring World Heart Day on Slashdot, despite heart disease being way more significant in every way than 9/11. I hate to be inconsiderate of tragedy victims, but are you not satisfied with it being mentioned on every other media outlet on every day of the year?

By the way, I like your "9/11/2001", as though somebody wouldn't have known what you were talking about if you left off the year.

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (1)

Raistlin77 (754120) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086183)

<flame>Apology rejected. You state that you know how seriously off-topic this is, and yet you post it anyway. Frankly, I'm glad I have someplace to go that doesn't try to cram more 9/11 crap down my throat.</flame>

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (0, Offtopic)

TheDarkener (198348) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086201)

I'm sick of it too. I'm sick of the same stories about the heroes and the police and the victims and the terrorists. I've been sick of it for a LONG TIME now.

I was looking for a different angle on it, a Slashdot angle. An angle that focuses on the science and physics of 9/11. I'm sure you can agree that science and physics is geeky enough to talk about here, right?

Don't you think the physics of buildings falling because of aircraft crashing into them is amazing? Worth research, possibly to avoid it happening again? "Conspiracy theories" about how the buildings shouldn't have fallen straight down into their own footprints? What about WTC7? Do you even know what I'm talking about?

There's plenty of shit to talk about regarding the science and physics. How come we aren't interested? Are we all to scared to talk about it? Afraid you're gonna learn something you don't want to know?

Go ahead and flame the living shit out of me. Close your eyes and pretend it didn't happen, or it was 'far too long ago' to worry about anymore. Meanwhile, the fairy princess and her smurf friends are baking you happy cookies. Enjoy the spoonfeeding.

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (1)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086409)

Don't you think the physics of buildings falling because of aircraft crashing into them is amazing?

No. The physics seem fairly mundane. If they got taller because of it, then that would be some amazing physics.

Worth research, possibly to avoid it happening again?

Been done. Still being done. The concensus mostly seems to be "don't crash planes into buildings."

"Conspiracy theories" about how the buildings shouldn't have fallen straight down into their own footprints?

Oh, sorry, I was treating you like a sane person there for a second. My bad.

Close your eyes and pretend it didn't happen

That seems unnecessary.

or it was 'far too long ago' to worry about anymore.

Well, it has actually been a while since anyone died due to a plane flying into the WTC. Do you expect a lot more casualties? It seems like most we've past the worst of it. Do you have a time in mind when it'll be okay to get on with life?

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (0, Offtopic)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086215)

Is it not important enough anymore to warrant a story?

I can't believe how even after hearing about it on TV everyday for the last 5 years, some people still don't grow tired of hearing about it.

Only 3,000 people (a bit less actually) died. While I may sound like a troll for saying "only", it's because we need to relativize, 3,000 people dying en masse is not a lot nor even exceptional compared to what happens all the time on Earth. But maybe it has to do with both happening in the USA and being very spectacular... Still, give me a break with 9/11, it's getting old, I mean I'm getting fed up.

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086372)

Only 3,000 people (a bit less actually) died. While I may sound like a troll for saying "only", it's because we need to relativize, 3,000 people dying en masse is not a lot nor even exceptional compared to what happens all the time on Earth.


Yeah, but: ter'rists! You're not thinking of the children, damn it! ;)

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086421)

> I can't believe how even after hearing about it on TV everyday for the last 5 years, some people still don't grow tired of hearing about it.

And this year we've been treated to a steady barrage of movie ads and television specials for about the past two months.

> Only 3,000 people (a bit less actually) died. While I may sound like a troll for saying "only", it's because we need to relativize, 3,000 people dying en masse is not a lot nor even exceptional compared to what happens all the time on Earth.

"Worldwide, an estimated 1.2 million people are killed in road crashes each year and as many as 50 million are injured. [who.int] "

IIRC, the annual traffic deaths in the USA is "only" about ten times the number of people killed on 9/11.

> But maybe it has to do with both happening in the USA and being very spectacular... Still, give me a break with 9/11, it's getting old, I mean I'm getting fed up.

Fed up with politicians using it to justify all manner of nonsense, while studiously avoiding doing anything the experts actually recommended.

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (0, Offtopic)

TheLink (130905) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086254)

Why should the rest of the world care? The US citizens and Gov don't seem to be bothered about dealing with the root causes of 9/11.

They went an attacked _Iraq_ instead, and the US Gov used (and continues to use) 9/11 as an opportunity to make the USA and the rest of the world a worse place.

for everyone's sake impeach Bush first and deal with the Diebold crap.

Re:I know this is SERIOUSLY OT but I need to ask. (0, Offtopic)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086326)

There are some things that are important in that everyone should know about it. There are some things that are important in that people should have nothing to do with it. I'm not so sure that 9/11 doesn't fall into the latter and could use some input on it.

Where will the birds go during a pole reversal? (3, Interesting)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086088)

I hope they don't get too confused:

http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/05/1 5/1544240 [slashdot.org]
http://digg.com/general_sciences/North_Pole_Moving _South_ [digg.com]

No wonder those latent genes are turned off.

Re:Where will the birds go during a pole reversal? (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086202)

What's interesting though is that there doesn't seem to be any fossil evidence of higher-than-normal extinction rates during previous pole reversals...

Re:Extinction (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086346)

I think you've just hit upon a new theory as to why the dinosaurs went extinct. Is there any evidence, for or against? How well are the dinosaur extinction event and the magnetic pole flips narrowed down, and could the dinosaur extinction be a delayed reaction?

Re:Extinction (4, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086420)

I think you've just hit upon a new theory as to why the dinosaurs went extinct. Is there any evidence, for or against? How well are the dinosaur extinction event and the magnetic pole flips narrowed down, and could the dinosaur extinction be a delayed reaction?

Well, the thing is, magnetic pole reversals actually happen pretty often, according to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] at a rate of 1-5 events every million years. Since the dinosaurs lived 65-230 million years ago, by looking at this graph [wikipedia.org] we can deduce that during their existence they experienced a few dozen pole reversals.

Now that I look at it though, it is somewhat interesting that the Cretaceous Long Normal [wikipedia.org] , an abnormally long (~40 million year) period during which there were no pole reversals at all, ended around 15 million years before the dinosaurs disappeared. I personally think it's just a coincidence, though.

Re:Extinction (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086427)

Let's not go getting ahead of ourselves. It is extremely well known amongst palaeontologists that a pole reversal took place shortly before dinosaur extinction. There's still no conclusive evidence, but it is a theory that's being explored.

Re:Where will the birds go during a pole reversal? (2, Insightful)

nwbvt (768631) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086323)

Well despite what movies like The Core will make you believe, its not like this is their only way to tell where they are going. I believe they primarily rely on sight and memory, they are not just flying around there with their eyes closed.

Of course there is only one way to find out for sure. Tie big magnets to the bird's heads and see if they can still find their way South. If not, we know it plays a big role in their navigation. Either that or it weighed them down so much they couldn't fly.

Whats the difference... (1)

Z1NG (953122) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086091)

What is the difference between a magnet and a slashdot moderator? The magnet has a positive side.

Re:Whats the difference... (1)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086129)

Er... hate to be a typical /. geek, but didn't you mean "what is the difference between a /. moderator and a battery?" A magnet has no positive or negative side.

Hey birds! (4, Funny)

cryptochrome (303529) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086093)

I'm way ahead of you.

So is that how they know to migrate? (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086097)

I know birds aren't smartest creatures, but I don't remember if they can memorize there migration path (though I assume not.) Could the hightening of this magnetic sense during certain seasonal light conditions direct the birds to follow the earth's magnetic field, guiding them until they encounter an area with lighting conditions sufficient to disrupt the sense?

Re:So is that how they know to migrate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086360)

"I know birds aren't smartest creatures..."

Some birds seem to be pretty clever. Ravens and Parrots come to mind. Especially Alex. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_(parrot) [wikipedia.org]

Happy 9/11: Celebrating Five Years Since 9/11/2001 (0, Troll)

Are you a NIGGER (850302) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086098)

Happy 9/11 From The GNAA
Gnaa, Nigeria

We at the GNAA [www.gnaa.us] (Gay Nigger Association of America) would like to wish you seasons greetings on this most glorious day.

As we reach the fifth anniversary of the momentous destruction [wtc7.net] of two large ugly buildings [wtc7.net] by the highly trained agents of mossad (Israels notorious anti-gentile secret service), and the war against sandniggers everywhere that ensued, we have entered into what is widely recognised as a golden age of trolling [slashdot.org] . This could not have been possible without the assistance of YOU!

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Happy Holidays!
From The Gay Nigger Association of America [www.gnaa.us]

About WTC

The World Trade Center (WTC) was built in the 1960's by well-known drug-addicted architect Guy Niguere. On massive levels of barbiturates at the time, Niguere made many mistakes in the design of the building, but structurally and stylistically. This led to the towers easy destruction by the Israeli.


About GNAA:
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  • Second, you need to succeed in posting a GNAA First Post [wikipedia.org] on slashdot.org [slashdot.org] , a popular "news for trolls" website.
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If you have mod points and would like to support GNAA, please moderate this post up.

.________________________________________________.
| ______________________________________._a,____ | Press contact:
| _______a_._______a_______aj#0s_____aWY!400.___ | Gary Niger
| __ad#7!!*P____a.d#0a____#!-_#0i___.#!__W#0#___ | gary_niger@gnaa.us [mailto]
| _j#'_.00#,___4#dP_"#,__j#,__0#Wi___*00P!_"#L,_ | GNAA Corporate Headquarters
| _"#ga#9!01___"#01__40,_"4Lj#!_4#g_________"01_ | 143 Rolloffle Avenue
| ________"#,___*@`__-N#____`___-!^_____________ | Tarzana, California 91356
| _________#1__________?________________________ |
| _________j1___________________________________ | All other inquiries:
| ____a,___jk_GAY_NIGGER_ASSOCIATION_OF_AMERICA_ | Enid Indian
| ____!4yaa#l___________________________________ | enid_indian@gnaa.us [mailto]
| ______-"!^____________________________________ | GNAA World Headquarters
` _______________________________________________' 160-0023 Japan Tokyo-to Shinjuku-ku Nishi-Shinjuku 3-20-2

Copyright (c) 2003-2004 Gay Nigger Association of America [www.gnaa.us]

extra powers (1)

navtal (943711) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086108)

So we could have extra powers? Science may not have discovered everything yet? Would be interesting. Perhaps the only people that really feel it are those that travel around the world allot to different areas of magnetic force on the globe. Thats not jet lag...thats just your body realigning itself to the magnetic fields. j/k

F=IL X B (5, Insightful)

afmstuff (954673) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086110)

This is interesting in the sense that these are very low frequency (~0Hz) fields which transfer much less power to the molecule which interacts with it than say visible light which operates at a much higher frequency and is comprised of a coupled electric and magnetic field. Of course the latter has been known to be sensed by sighted animals for quite some time. One way to view this is as an extension of the mechanism of vision- a photon causes a fast (actually one of the fastest reactions known) trans->cis conformational shift in retinol which drives a voltage down the optic nerve... the mechanism described in the FTA is the next step: once a radical is formed, it responds in a magnetic field. Apparently this response is also sensed. Interesting finding!

my takeaway (1)

rifftide (679288) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086113)

Avoid K-mart's parking lot in October.

Iron in your nose (4, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086121)

According to http://everything2.com/index.pl?node=nose [everything2.com]
  • There's a compass in my nose?

  • All humans have a trace amount of iron in their noses, a rudimentary compass found in the ethmoid bone (between the eyes) to help in directional finding relative to the earth's magnetic field.

  • Studies show that many people have the ability to use these magnetic deposits to orient themselves-even when blindfolded and removed from such external clues as sunlight-to within a few degrees of the North Pole, exactly as a compass does.

  • Though no one knows how this "sixth" sense is processed by the brain more then two dozen animals, including the dolphin, tuna, salmon, salamander, pigeon, and honeybee have been found to have similar magnetic deposits in their brains to help them in navigation and migration.


I will dispute their statement about pigeons though. I recall watching or reading something where the scientists put trackers on homing pigeons to discover how they found their way around. Turns out they follow landmarks.

The pigeons often took indirect routes, because they were following a road. The scientists didn't figure this out even after they realized the paths were very odd... it didn't click until someone looked at a road map.

Re:Iron in your nose (5, Funny)

Centurix (249778) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086161)

With a nose the size of mine I'm not looking forward to the polar shift. I'll have to wear kneepads and a helmet.

Re:Iron in your nose (1)

asland (26316) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086281)

Wouldn't roads be warmer and give a better updraft so the birds could travel farther?

Re:Iron in your nose (1)

gwjenkins (968023) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086426)

I dunno about pigeons following road maps. I lived in a share-house once that accumulated trained homing pigeons. The explaination was that the hill we were on was high in iron and that mucked with their magnetic sensory thingy so they spiralled in until they landed at our place. Come to think of it though, the house was at the end of a no-through road.

Detecting Changing Magnetic Fields (4, Interesting)

DrLudicrous (607375) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086128)

Anecdotally, I have heard of many people "sensing" the magnetic field of an MRI scanner. I have had a few MRI's done on myself, and can attest to this feeling. It is strange, mostly in the head, somewhat like when one feels dizzy or just a tinge of seasickness. I think that is has something to do with the fact that as you enter the scanner, the field you experience changes quite rapidly. Once you are in the scanner, I haven't really noticed the queasiness as much, though it still feels strange. However, I attribute this second sensation more to the fact that one is contained inside a small tube with all kinds of weird noises and vibrations going around. So at the very least, some people seem to be sensitive to changing fields above some threshold.

Re:Detecting Changing Magnetic Fields (2, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086180)

Usually that sensation is followed by the sound of a metal plate ripping through the back of your skull and adhering firmly to the inside of the scanner.

Re:Detecting Changing Magnetic Fields (1)

Fengpost (907072) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086208)

Strangely, I got the same feeling from talking on a motorola mobile phone for too long!

Re:Detecting Changing Magnetic Fields (2, Informative)

lukesl (555535) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086240)

The same thing happened to me once, when I was working to prepare an MRI scanner for an experiment. There was a radiologist there, so I asked him what the mechanism was, and he said it was believed that the magnetic fields affect metal ions in your otoliths [wikipedia.org] , which are the organs in the inner ear responsible for sensing motion. Apparently it's known that some fish and birds have magnetic materials in their otoliths, but I'm not sure if it's ever been demonstrated directly in humans.

Also, it's known that the brain can be directly stimulated with strong magnetic fields, as in transcranial magnetic stimulation. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Detecting Changing Magnetic Fields (1)

ovapositor (79434) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086299)

You do realize that the main purpose of the MRI is to put a "moment" or torque on the bound cellular water? When the water returns to its rest state it emits radiation that is detected for the pretty pictures. You might be feeling that effect as there is vastly more water in your body than metal ions.

Re:Detecting Changing Magnetic Fields (4, Informative)

DrLudicrous (607375) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086337)

You are right in some respects. The moment to which you refer is the nuclear magnetic moment of the hydrogen atom, which are quite plentiful in most living things, ourselves included, due to the prevalence of water. In MRI, the torque these moments experience causes them to change their alignment from being in the same direction as an externally applied magnetic field (hence the big MRI magnet), to one that lies perpendicular to the direction of the external field. As they do this, the precess about the external field axis at a rate called the "Larmor frequency" (i.e. they rotate about it). This causes the magnetic flux inside the MRI receiver coil (more or less a loop of wire) to change, and by Lenz's Law, an EMF (voltage) will be induced. This is the signal that is detected.

Note that while the magnetic moments are being manipulated, the actual water molecules themselves are more or less unaffected. This is one reason that MRI/NMR is such a great way to measure molecular self-diffusion- the phenomenon of diffusion is unaffected by all the magnetic fields being bandied about the sample. So to sum up, the "torque" the water molecules experience is one that affects only the magnetic orientation of the hydrogen atoms in your body, and not the actual physical orientation. And the signal that an MRI machine detects is not coming from the return to equilibrium of the water molecules as much as it comes from the precession of the asffected magnetic moments about the direction of the external field.

Mini-microwave instead? (1)

wyoung76 (764124) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086402)

Maybe it's more to do with having your head put inside what is roughly equivalent to a small microwave?

test message...please delete (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086195)

plese delete

I'm disappointed... (1)

at_slashdot (674436) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086210)

...no midichloreans joke yet?

Why Blue Light? (3, Interesting)

NexFlamma (919608) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086234)

They mention the blue light necessity of this system, but they never really explain why it has to be blue light or what the light itself does (unless I've become illiterate). Can anyone explain (or at least make something plausible up) the whole blue light component of this mechanism?

Re:Why Blue Light? (1)

aXis100 (690904) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086349)

"The scientists realised that the cryptochromes could well be involved in the perception of the magnetic field, as they have all the physical and chemical properties needed, notably the absorption of blue and green light and the formation of 'radical pairs' - molecules which respond to magnetic fields."

So blue light must have the right energy level (see quantum physics) to interact with the molecule's electrons and cause the change.

Re:Why Blue Light? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086352)

Presumably blue light is needed because blue photons have more energy than photons from the rest of the visible spectrum. I'd guess that there is some activation energy to form the needed 'radical pairs'

Re:Why Blue Light? (1)

toddhisattva (127032) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086380)

Ain't got no idea how the physics of these things would work. Or if other colors might work with other molecules.

But from an evolutionary point of view, since the spectrum of sunlight depends on how much air it goes through and varies with time of day and time of year (see where I'm going? Of course you do you're using your internal compass) -- I will bet a penny that it's something to do with the timing of migrations.

Example (1)

ProfessionalCookie (673314) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086440)

In some bacteria the enzyme photolyase [wikipedia.org] works to repair thymine dimers (from UV DNA damage) but requires light in the visible spectrum.

It's probably a protein with a magnetic ligand that requires a specific energy to activate. Of course I wouldn't actually read the article.

-Ed [edified.org]

Re:You know. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086242)

Biological direction sensing with magnetite [sciencedirect.com] has been known for a couple of decades. Magnetic receptors in plants is an interesting twist. Having the sensor being light-dependent suggests a tie with phototropism. My question is, do the plants thrive better in one hemisphere than the other? North-seeking plants would be better adapted to the southern hemisphere, etc.

Okay. so what the fuck do you do? (0, Offtopic)

TechGranny (987537) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086252)

Do you bitch and moan and whine or do you fight even more?

But wait... (1)

Badfysh (761833) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086255)

Blue light? This is possibly a stupid question, but isn't sunlight yellow?

Re:But wait... (2, Informative)

Pfhorrest (545131) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086345)

Blue light? This is possibly a stupid question, but isn't sunlight yellow?

Yes, but skylight is blue.

Re:But wait... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086347)

Sunlight is yellow, but the sky is blue. I'd suspect it's an on during the day, off at night switch.

John Roth

red light causes a disruption,,, interesting (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16086383)

I've know for a long time that many large birds freak out when a red laser pointer is shown anywhere near them. Especially large parrots. I'm not talking about pointing in their eyes, which is cruel to any animal. But just shining the red light nearby is enough to agitate them, and if shown near their head they will lose balance and fall from their tree.

These light sensitive molecules must be very important to the bird's balance as well as helping them migrate. I wonder if they use the magnetic field to remain upright as well, or if by the red light turning off the receptor magnetic-sensitive light receptor molecules, they temporarily go blind. REd light could be perceived to be much brighter to them than the other colors. Since if the red light shuts off the receptors, only a small amount must be blinding. It might be like flipping a light switch where all blue and green perception disappears and only red is left. I"m glad my eye's aren't affected by specific colors that way.

Optimal times of navigation? (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086452)

If blue light is an important factor, would that mean that the ability to navigate goes down towards dusk? Sounds like an experiment is needed.

Slashdot, taking the "new" out of "news" (1)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 7 years ago | (#16086461)

How is this news. This all sounded really familiar and old, and of course, the first site I went to on a google search took me to this [uci.edu] from 2000. There's tons of stuff from 2004 on studies done with pidgeons. But this stuff is definitely not new.
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