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Bird's-Eye View May Include Magnetic Fields

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the need-that-addon-for-tom-tom dept.

Science 86

BoredStiff writes "Heard on NPR and reported in ScienceDaily: a study finding that migratory birds may be able to 'see' magnetic fields. The report comes from a current study by a research group from Oldenburg, Germany. They found that migratory birds use their visual system to perceive the reference compass direction of the geomagnetic field: 'Sensory systems process their particular stimuli along specific brain circuits. Thus, the identification of what sensory system is active during magnetic compass orientation, provides a way to recognize the sensory quality utilized during that specific behavior.'"

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SLASHDOT USERS EAT MARE PUSSY (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20790919)

fuck you moderators [goatse.ch]

Re:SLASHDOT USERS EAT MARE PUSSY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20791161)

Least we're getting some!

If you want to know what it feels like (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20790951)

Check this hack out: http://www.hackaday.com/2007/09/18/haptic-radar-electronic-whiskers/ [hackaday.com]
Hardware hack that lets you sense your surroundings.

Re:If you want to know what it feels like (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20791015)

Thanks, Dr. Emmet Brown. I'll wait until you invent the flux capacitor.

Re:If you want to know what it feels like (2, Funny)

zeptobyte (1140111) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791575)

You understand, of course, that I very well may have to kill you for so grossly misusing the word hack, right?

Re:If you want to know what it feels like (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#20792723)

You'll have to hack the internets to fogure out who he is. Awesome.

Re:If you want to know what it feels like (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20799077)

Awwww, go fogure yourself.

Re:If you want to know what it feels like (1)

scbysnx (837275) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791581)

being able to sense magnetic fields isn't exactly the same thing as having goofy IR sensors attached to your head but.. still pretty bad freakin ass

So what happens if the magnetic field changes? (3, Interesting)

mark-t (151149) | more than 7 years ago | (#20790955)

What happens if the magnet field flips, or drops completely for few millenia, as is speculated has happened before and will likely happen again?

Re:So what happens if the magnetic field changes? (5, Insightful)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 7 years ago | (#20790989)

Evolution. That's what happens :)

Re:So what happens if the magnetic field changes? (1)

mdmarkus (522132) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791743)

And given how long birds have been around and how many times the magnetic field has flipped in that history, those that couldn't adapt, didn't, and evolution is what happened.

Re:So what happens if the magnetic field changes? (1)

megaditto (982598) | more than 7 years ago | (#20792167)

That's just a theory.

Re:So what happens if the magnetic field changes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20792411)

Re:So what happens if the magnetic field changes? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 7 years ago | (#20793201)

No, evolution is the theory. Adaptation happens, and is a critical truth that the theory is based upon.

Re:So what happens if the magnetic field changes? (4, Informative)

alan_dershowitz (586542) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791001)

It's theorized that birds use the the setting sun to "calibrate" their magnetic direction sense. Scientists have done experiments with visual cues and artificial magnetic fields. What's new here is that these scientists have found direct evidence that the magnetic field is "seen" as opposed to some other sense method (for this type of bird anyway.) Check out this link: geomagnetism and birds migration [biocurious.com]

Re:So what happens if the magnetic field changes? (5, Funny)

icepick72 (834363) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791269)

As if I'm gonna' check out THAT link. I'll just blindly believe you instead.

Re:So what happens if the magnetic field changes? (1)

griffjon (14945) | more than 7 years ago | (#20792529)

The cool thing here could be applications: could, say, windfarms, which have an unfortunate side effect of doing a blender on birds (especially if in their migratory path...), use big magnets to deflect birds around them?

Re:So what happens if the magnetic field changes? (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791119)

then we all die from cosmic radiation and birds are the least of our worries

I blame George Bush (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20791261)

I can't wait to hear how the magnetic field flipping is George Bush's fault.

Re:So what happens if the magnetic field changes? (1)

Climate Shill (1039098) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791741)

What happens if the magnet field flips, or drops completely for few millenia, as is speculated has happened before and will likely happen again?

Not too much, to the birds at least. IIRC the field changes quite slowly over the course of several bird lifetimes, spending a while near zero, so they will get a chance to adapt to this cue becoming less and less useful.

Re:So what happens if the magnetic field changes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20794259)

Well, if the magnetic field drops completely again, you will have several choices.

1. Fry like bacon in the microwave in the ultraviolet emissions eminating from the sun like a heating element in an oven.

2. Adapt, and learn to sleep through the radiation glow at night.

3. Rapidly evolve into an amoeba again so you are able to continuously reproduce to maintain your dna until the earths atmosphere returns.

4. Explode due to rapid decompression from the sudden disappearance of the earths atmosphere (God, I hope i stay together long enough to see that one)

5. Learn how to live without oxygen.

Take your pick.

Re:So what happens if the magnetic field changes? (1)

chawly (750383) | more than 7 years ago | (#20797545)

Some ducks get lost ?

Re:So what happens if the magnetic field changes? (1)

Cros13 (206651) | more than 7 years ago | (#20800313)

Cool, the bird has a HUD

Re:So what happens if the magnetic field changes? (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 7 years ago | (#20803903)

What happens if the magnet field flips, or drops completely for few millenia, as is speculated has happened before and will likely happen again?

For any level of knowledge that isn't completely subsumed by being a biblical-fundamentalist young-Earth creationist idiot, you can drop the "speculated" in favour of "known". BFYECIs might not like it, but that's no reason to waste effort worrying about their feelings.
That's a pretty pertinent question, which is illuminated by the question of what happens with the relatively short-term "secular" variation in the location of the geographic poles, and the absence of flocks of birds permanently circling in certain highly-magnetic mountain regions (the Black Cuillin of Skye being an example).
In both cases you'd get extreme errors of navigation - in the mountains, the magnetic field can be up to 180 degrees out from the geographic direction when the local difference between magnetic and geographic Norths is a handful of degrees. (The year-to-year variation in this correction is the "secular" variation mentioned above). When trying to navigate around in Northern Canada, a 50 mile shift in the position of the magnetic north pole (a perfectly credible shift) could have your flock of geese either trying to graze on grass a hundred miles out to sea, or trying to survive up in high, glaciated mountains.The answer is, of course, that the birds don't rely exclusively on any one piece of navigation equipment. Maybe they only use the magnetic field on heavily overcast days, to give them a crude direction to fly in, but still follow the rivers/ coasts once they've decided which way to fly that day.

they're gunnin for ya (4, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#20790965)

Heard on NPR and reported in ScienceDaily: a study finding that migratory birds may be able to 'see' magnetic fields.

How else do you think they're able to so accurately target your new car?

Re:they're gunnin for ya (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20793495)

And avoid my duck blind.

They probably don't see... (1)

dkarma (985926) | more than 7 years ago | (#20790991)

the magnetic fields, their eyes just probably tingle when they're facing north...

I thought we already knew this (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 7 years ago | (#20790995)

I remember seeing a documentary that mentioned this at least 10 years ago.

Re:I thought we already knew this (1)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791027)

I remember seeing a documentary that mentioned this at least 10 years ago.

Actually, The Core [wikipedia.org] came out in 2003.

Re:I thought we already knew this (1)

srmalloy (263556) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791105)

I remember seeing a documentary that mentioned this at least 10 years ago.

Yes, indeed. A Magnetite Null Detector as the Migrating Bird's Compass , D. T. Edmonds, Proceedings: Biological Sciences, Vol. 249, No. 1324 (Jul. 22, 1992), pp. 27-31

Re:I thought we already knew this (3, Insightful)

srmalloy (263556) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791133)

Digging closer, however, the articles point to magnetic materials in otoliths, located in the birds' ears; the research referenced in the article is on how the input from the magnetic sensors is processed, not where the sensor is -- how the brain is wired to receive input from them, not merely their existence.

Re:I thought we already knew this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20793583)

So do I. I was in the UK at the time.

Does this mean birds aren't doomed after all? (4, Insightful)

rde (17364) | more than 7 years ago | (#20790997)

I'm a bit bemused by this whole concept, and the article doesn't really help ("Neuronal tracing reveals that Cluster N receives input through the thalamofugal visual pathway.")

Assuming the nerds in question are right (and I've not reason to think they're not), the whole 'seeing a geomagnetic field' thing is wrecking my head. We're all familiar with the shape of the Earth's magnetic field, and it's easy to envision a series of lines spreading out from the poles. However, given that the poles are due for a reversal, it's been assumed by people worldwide who know about such things that this means doom for most migratory birds. If they can see the field lines, though, this may not be the case. Rather, it's the time leading up to the reversal that'll be the problem, as the lines get ever more chaotic. Once the flip happens, presumably all will be well again.

Given that the poles have flipped many times in the past, and there've been major (if not mass) extinctions associated with at least some of them, the implication (to me) is that if there are fossils embedded in rocks with the polarity reversed then the two were simultaneous, and that some mechanism other than sight was used for sensing the fields.

Of course, this all assumes that a) I know what the hell I'm talking about, b) there's only one mechanism for detecting the field and c) the field looks the same from either pole.

Re:Does this mean birds aren't doomed after all? (4, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791031)

I'm not arguing with you, but perhaps you should do what I'm about to do.

Have another drink.

Re:Does this mean birds aren't doomed after all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20791035)

Yes, that mechanism is called the Sun. People use it too.

Re:Does this mean birds aren't doomed after all? (4, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791043)

the implication (to me) is that if there are fossils embedded in rocks with the polarity reversed then the two were simultaneous, and that some mechanism other than sight was used for sensing the fields.
these flips happen every 100,000-200,000 years or so which is virtually nothing on the geological scale, species can survive for millions of years so there's a fair chance they could start dying out around the time of a flip, that doesn't really mean that the field was causing an extinction unless there is some pretty convincing evidence to go along with it. this can be tested and I would bet they already have tried this, but we could expose the birds to a magnetic field and vary it according to what we think flips are like and see what happens.

Re:Does this mean birds aren't doomed after all? (5, Insightful)

EonBlueApocalypse (1029220) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791293)

I think if you were actually able to see the planets magnetic field that it wouldn't actually be represented in solid lines. I'd guess it would be hues of color where the field is strongest that are perceived, then anything else. I say this because what we see as color is just wave lengths of light being interpreted by our brains and I have yet to read anything that says vision and the colors involved can only be interpreted by the brain threw certain frequencies of light or sound. Anyways any species who has not evolved a back up plan like using the position of the sun, then some species may die out, but then again those aren't very successful if they a yet unable to cope with seemingly normal planetary changes.

Re:Does this mean birds aren't doomed after all? (1)

Velveeta_512 (1142553) | about 7 years ago | (#20811611)

I know I'm a bit late in replying to this, but I'm getting caught up on my /. from the weekend :) Just because we interpret varying wavelengths of light as colors doesn't necessarily mean that magnetic fields would be interpreted this way also... It all depends on the sensory input processing the brain uses for that particular sense... While ours interpret light wavelengths as colors obviously, some animals don't interpret colors at all, although greyscale could be argued as color variations... However, leaving light out of it altogether, sound is really just varying wavelengths of energy being interpreted by an entirely different sensory input, and even touch could be argued the same, as all physical objects are just made up of energy operating at certain energy frequencies... For all we know, a magnetic field sensor in the brain could perceive the field as an audible tone that gets stronger as they line up with the field in one direction or another, or it could be something visible, if not in colors, then perhaps in some form of opaqueness, like lenses of varying thickness being overlayed on their regular field of vision depending on how they're facing in the magnetic field (doubtful, since birds are often cited as having good vision and this seems like it would jack that up a bit :D)... Who knows, maybe they can smell the magnetic field or maybe it just makes them tingle when they're pointing north or south, who knows :)

Re:Does this mean birds aren't doomed after all? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791623)

what else would change when Earth's magnetic poles change?

Re:Does this mean birds aren't doomed after all? (2, Interesting)

Climate Shill (1039098) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791787)

If they can see the field lines, though, this may not be the case.

This is quite unlikely, given that there are no such things as magnetic field lines.

Re:Does this mean birds aren't doomed after all? (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 7 years ago | (#20792303)

". However, given that the poles are due for a reversal, it's been assumed by people worldwide who know about such things that this means doom for most migratory birds."

The magnetic fields are not the only thing birds use to navigate. I wish the articles would not make it look like the only universally relied upon function to navigate.

Re:Does this mean birds aren't doomed after all? (2, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#20792733)

When I become a scientist, I am going to make up words like thalamofugal.

Re:Does this mean birds aren't doomed after all? (1)

mikael (484) | more than 7 years ago | (#20793049)

The bird's retina is curved like a parabolic dish. The magnetic field lines would be like a whole bunch of straight lines going through space. Depending upon the angle that the field lines make with each cell, a different response would be given. If you were to visualise this, it would probably look like the Sun seen through thin clouds - a fuzzy point of light surrounded by a halo.

That's not to say that it may actually be perceived as something visible by the birds. If you walk past a heat lamp that is on, you are aware that there is something hot nearby, even if you cannot see it. And there is also that instinct that instructs birds to give up nesting and feeding and to suddenly decide it's much better to join the flock and start flying to wherever.

Re:Does this mean birds aren't doomed after all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20793273)

I think they would adapt pretty quick, or not even be worried at all. We don't worry out when the sun sets/moves throughout the day. Nor do we panic (much) when we goto a disco with those crazy coloured lights :).

Re:Does this mean birds aren't doomed after all? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#20794483)

They can't see fields like that. To map a magnetic field you have to move to different points within it.

This would be more like seeing the direction of the field at the bird's particular location. Something equivalent to having a heads up compass display in an airplane.

Re:Does this mean birds aren't doomed after all? (1)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 7 years ago | (#20796135)

However, given that the poles are due for a reversal

There's no way to tell when the next reversal will come along. We're certainly not 'due' for one.

((if a reversal happens when I post this, that would simply be irony. It wouldn't mean I'm wrong!))

Re:Does this mean birds aren't doomed after all? (3, Funny)

haakondahl (893488) | more than 7 years ago | (#20800793)

However, given that the poles are due for a reversal

There's no way to tell when the next reversal will come along. We're certainly not 'due' for one.

((if a reversal happens when I post this, that would simply be irony. It wouldn't mean I'm wrong!))
Ferritic, anyway.

why reinvent when you can use what you have? (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791007)

the brain is very flexible, if one part is damaged another takes over, it could be that these birds evolved to utilize the extra processing power of their brains that work with light vision in a similar way. rather than evolve an entirely new region of the brain solely involved in the processing of this magnetic field sese, they use what they already have- an evolutionary macguyver in a way.

Re:why reinvent when you can use what you have? (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791367)

the brain is very flexible, if one part is damaged another takes over, it could be that these birds evolved to utilize the extra processing power of their brains that work with light vision in a similar way. rather than evolve an entirely new region of the brain solely involved in the processing of this magnetic field sese, they use what they already have- an evolutionary macguyver in a way.

While I have not done enough reading to say with conviction, it nonetheless would seem to me that magnetic sensing may well be older than photo sensitivity. Microbes were absorbing iron long before they got together to collectively form creatures with eyes.


-FL

Re:why reinvent when you can use what you have? (1)

kennygraham (894697) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791781)

While I have not done enough reading to say with conviction, it nonetheless would seem to me that magnetic sensing may well be older than photo sensitivity. Microbes were absorbing iron long before they got together to collectively form creatures with eyes.

If life started as photosynthetic, they were seeking sunlight before they were seeking iron. But if it started in hydrothermal vents, you're probably right.

Wait one minute... (3, Funny)

penguin_dance (536599) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791009)

They can see magnetic fields...

But they keep getting whacked by windmills....

Uh, okay.

Re:Wait one minute... (0, Redundant)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791407)

And jets, don't forget those giant pieces of metal in the sky...perhaps this means the new 787 won't get hit because it's not metal or something...I don't really know, I mean, it's got birds seeing magnetic fields...what meme fits that?

1. See Magnetic Fields
2. Migrate
3. ???
4. Profit
This of a Beowolf Cluster of these.
Do they run Linux?
In Soviet Russia, Magnetic Field sees birds!

None really work...what are we to do?

Re:Wait one minute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20791421)

dude, they've got their own GPS.

Re:Wait one minute... (2, Funny)

Plutonite (999141) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791541)

Let's just say they're single-threaded. It takes time to do electromagnetic integrals in your head while flapping your wings ya know. No wonder they shit so much.

Re:Wait one minute... (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791591)

Hmm, got to put some bar magnets on the windmil blades...

Re:Wait one minute... (1)

GTMoogle (968547) | more than 7 years ago | (#20795027)

With the acknowledgment that this wasn't asking for a serious response, I think that the birds tend to worry most about things that are relatively close and moving no faster than themselves. When you have a blade with a high tip velocity, the birds probably don't see it coming. Modern windmills have lower velocities relative to wind speed and kill far fewer birds.

Bats (3, Funny)

jeffkjo1 (663413) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791087)

And you thought it was cool to confuse bats by tossing stuff in the air, now I can crank up the magnetron when the canada geese fly overhead and throw them off so they settle for the winter in Iowa.

You crapped on my car for the last time birds.

Bad call... (1)

6Yankee (597075) | more than 7 years ago | (#20792385)

If anything, cranking up your magnetron might make you - and your car - a navigational waypoint.

I used to work at an airfield in Scotland, and we had two navigation beacons at opposite ends of the main runway, so about 900m apart. It was fascinating to watch flocks of Canada geese track directly overhead one or the other before setting a new course. (Of course, the bastards would always do this at circuit height...)

We used to joke about the birds having a different avionics fit - but maybe some lead birds just thought the VOR made a prettier colour than the NDB, and vice versa. *shrug*

Re:Bats (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 7 years ago | (#20792575)

yeah, and if the magnetron is strong enough you can have a tasty roasted goose afterwards.

Magnetic Field Detection? (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791103)

That's a feature that comes standard on any showroom model shark.

Re:Magnetic Field Detection? (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791145)

that's how they aim their lasers....anyway bacteria use iron magnetite to navigate and sense direction too.
and to the other dude like waaaaay up there yeah, this is super old news and it has in fact been posted on slashdot before a year or two ago.

So basically this article says... (4, Insightful)

mpthompson (457482) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791111)

... that migratory birds have a heads-up navigation display. Who would have thought?

Pshhhh... (2, Funny)

callinyouin (1138469) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791165)

Who gives a shit about being able to see magnetic fields? My eyes have x-ray vision. http://www.spy.th.com/goggles.html [th.com]

Re:Pshhhh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20792051)

that link looks a tad fishy
especially the price tag

No shit! (1)

Fyz (581804) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791305)

I dare you to argue that any other organ in the bird could possibly house the sense of geomagnetism that it obviously has.

why is it obvious? (1)

DreadSpoon (653424) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791429)

What about the inner ear? I'm not sure how all that stuff works (I'm a programmer, not a biologist), but since that handles balance and such, it seems relatively safe to assume that magnetism might also be picked up by the inner ear.

Some humans also have good direction sense. Mine isn't so hot, but when on good days when I can actually navigate off of it, I certainly don't notice anything in my sight. More just that I manage to accurately assess any rotations I make relative to a base heading I managed to remember, which to me again indicates inner ear combined with good judgement and memory, which bird brains might just be better at than human brains.

So it being sight-based doesn't seem so obvious to me.

Re:No shit! (1)

Climate Shill (1039098) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791829)

I dare you to argue that any other organ in the bird could possibly house the sense of geomagnetism that it obviously has.

OMFG ! You dare us !

Well, just to show you I'm not scared, here's a description of where you find the magnetic sense in a pigeon. Up its nose. [washington.edu]

Watch out (1)

psychicsword (1036852) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791315)

Watch out Magneto, the birds are coming and they will find you...
They can see you,
There is no use in hiding.
If you read this beware!

maybe I'm drunk off 2 beers (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791321)

Or maybe their next experiment should involve sticking tiny magnets to a bird's head that isn't also a bird that flocks. Or do all birds flock. I'm not a birdologist.

Re:maybe I'm drunk off 2 beers (1)

CAR912 (788234) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791375)

Um... that would be an Ornithologist [wikipedia.org] , not a "birdologist".

Really? (4, Funny)

Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791409)

noshitsherlock

Really? noshitsherlock... I suppose all of you just knew that birds were able to "see" magnetic fields. That's really impressive, I can't believe how smart you are, that you had this knowledge in the back of your brain like I've got the switches to ls memorized. Thank you so much for demonstrating your superior knowledge in the form of a slashdot story tag, that's really cool. Much better than publishing your findings in a science journal, you decided to save them up and use them in a condescending manner on a technology blog. Way to go... I guess when the article stated, "surprisingly little is known about the neuronal substrates underlying these navigational abilities" it actually meant, "a few slashdot readers know exactly how the neuronal substrates work, but won't tell anyone." Anyway, I'd just like to applaud your contributions to humanity.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20791555)

Thanks for that :)

The number of scientifically illiterate /.ers who still feel qualified to give their opinions on topics they know nothing about really pisses me off on occasion.

The thing which grates is the number of American /.ers who formulate their entire opinions on scientific issues based on what people like Michael Crichton or Penn and Teller tell them.

Sad, but par for the course.

Re:Really? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20791821)

I've heard my whole life that birds have metal in their faces that allows them to sense direction like a compass. I'm sure others have heard this as well. How is noshitsherlock a bad tag for an article stating that birds can "see" magnetic fields, when everyone already knows that they have compasses in their heads? Or were we supposed to assume that these compasses were almost entirely useless until scientists discovered exactly how the neural processes involved work?

Re:Really? (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 7 years ago | (#20793907)

I've heard my whole life that birds have metal in their faces that allows them to sense direction like a compass. I'm sure others have heard this as well. How is noshitsherlock a bad tag for an article stating that birds can "see" magnetic fields, when everyone already knows that they have compasses in their heads? Or were we supposed to assume that these compasses were almost entirely useless until scientists discovered exactly how the neural processes involved work?
Everybody knows gravity exists. However, knowing gravity's existence is a long way from being able to explain how it works. If there's an article stating "Physicists discover gravity's underlying mechanism" how smart is it to tag it "noshitsherlock" and say "Well, duh... everyone knows gravity exists".
 

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20794291)

You still don't get it. They don't "see" magnetic fields - "see" in quotes as kind of an analogy to sight. They literally see magnetic fields in their vision. Yes, it's well known that some birds have some sort of compass - but that it is coupled into their optic nerve such that they literally see it - and we can even get some indication of what color it looks like to them ... that's pretty amazing.

Pshh, that's nothing (1)

Green Monkey (152750) | more than 7 years ago | (#20791757)

I saw the magnetic fields once, too -- and they didn't even play anything off 69 Love Songs like I was hoping.

How does a migrator bird know when to eat ? (2, Informative)

o'reor (581921) | more than 7 years ago | (#20792097)

There are older articles about this. For example, it's very important for a bird to pack up energy before crossing seas or deserts during their migration. But how do they guess when it's time for them to eat ? That's when their magnetic sense comes in handy :

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1200/is_18_160/ai_80344966 [findarticles.com] Well, imagine the applications that this might have on poultry farming : apply the correct magnetic field over the coop and your ducks or hens start overfeeding uncontrollably...

I've heard this before; Ann Arbor (1)

WheelDweller (108946) | more than 7 years ago | (#20792207)

There's a bird that migrates pole-to-pole; the Arctic Tern. Some folks at Ann Arbor were trying to figure out how, despite messing with the optics and (somehow) the magnetics, this bird flies over so much 'enjoyable' land with lots of food and warmth to continue on to the poles, where many of them are eaten by the animals there, and then return to the other.

They tried defeating the magnetics; it didn't help. They put contacts in the eyes of birds hatched as eggs in Ann Arbor; didn't matter. I don't know how old my information is, but magentism tied to optics was a part of the concern back then.

What new? (1)

szundi (946357) | more than 7 years ago | (#20792345)

I think it was a long known fact, i've seen on TV 10+ years before, maybe in Attenborough's Birds series.

Fud (1)

machinelou (1119861) | more than 7 years ago | (#20792631)

Most studies on this sort of phenomena have yet to find any good evidence that birds can sense magnetic fields. On the contrary, one good study actually showed that instead of using their "sense" of direction, migratory birds actually followed landmarks like major highways!

Re:Fud (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20793277)

Do you know what "FUD" means? Because you're not using it even close to correctly. You might as well just say that this article is cromulent.

The Party Line (1)

NetSettler (460623) | more than 7 years ago | (#20793375)

I've always wondered why birds align themselves on power lines. I've assumed the magnetic field gives them a buzz or warms them or something. But maybe it just makes the view prettier, like watching a nice sunset.

Being able to fly, they may be evolved to expect the sky to have that visual effect all the time, and perhaps find it humdrum. But perhaps seeing it happen near the ground is like we who were evolved to live on the ground seeing the Northern Lights or a comet--natural sensations coming from unusual places, and thus perceived as beauty. I've heard it said that birds some birds seem to sing for no other purpose than to enjoy themselves, and certainly on some days they seem to fly for similar reasons. If they could see things we couldn't, I don't know why they couldn't adapt to enjoy features of that as well.

Re:The Party Line (1)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 7 years ago | (#20794027)

Birds can't enjoy anything, because they are unfeeling automatons with no self-awareness.

That's why it's okay to eat them.

This is new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20794643)

I thought this was common knowledge? We studied that in 8th or 7th grade bio.

This isn't about a new feature in Google Earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20795517)

Just imagine we had hi-res magnetic field data. We could find all those crashed planes and WMDs in the blink of an eye.
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