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The Feature Creep

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Sense of Direction in Humans

12/01/2006 4:21 PM

Looks like researchers might have found out why humans have a sense of direction, Magnetite crystals in our noses. Most migratory creatures have them; birds, salmon, dolphins, etc. I wonder if I can take any supplements to help accentuate it because my sense of direction sucks.

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Guru
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#1

Re: Sense of Direction in Humans

12/01/2006 4:38 PM

Now I know what is missing in me!

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Guru

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#2

Re: Sense of Direction in Humans

12/01/2006 5:00 PM

The Earth's magnetic field is pretty weak (less than one gauss, typically), and perhaps your nose's magnetite crystals are just not up to snuff (get it?). Not enough to give a clear signal anyway. Maybe there's a way to accentuate this "sixth" sense and maybe not. But if you're so inclined and sufficiently geeky, you could try a little experiment to see if what little you (may) have actually works: tape a small rare-earth magnet against the side of your nose. If you try it and suddenly find that you have this inexplicable urge to walk in circles, you know it's working. Of course, whether you want to go clockwise or counter(anti)clockwise depends on the magnet's orientation. I know that at one time you could find these little pill-shaped magnets at your friendly Radio Shack store (assuming you live in the U.S.). If not, you can order one by visiting Edmund Scientific's online store.

Just tell people it's a mole.

-e

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#3

Re: Sense of Direction in Humans

12/01/2006 8:31 PM

Magnets in our noses?

I guess that explains why we get gunk in them!

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Guru

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: Sense of Direction in Humans

12/02/2006 9:42 AM

Try using a degaussing coil. You can find them in the "Cold Remedies" aisle at your local pharmacy.

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Guru
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#4

Re: Sense of Direction in Humans

12/02/2006 6:05 AM

I remember reading about this some 20 years ago, but I cant remember where. Personally I have a fairly good sense of direction and can nearly always tell you which way north is. There was one situation however that I found myself in that I had no idea which way north was. Interestingly it was underground in the middle of deposit of metallic ore that was discovered because of the way it distorted the earths magnetic field. It's only anecdotal but I would be interested to know if anybody else has had a similar experience.

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#6
In reply to #4

Re: Sense of Direction in Humans

12/03/2006 7:15 AM

I remember some experiments in the 70's involving taking students 20 men and 20 women blindfolded on a coach somewhere none of them had been before and then independantly each student was taken out side and asked to point where the coach had come from and then where was North...

There was a remarkably high rate of very close pointing by all, and if I remember correctly the men were the best at this task...

(No surprises there then..... Oooops where's English Rose!!!?)

John

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#7

Re: Sense of Direction in Humans

12/04/2006 9:18 AM

About 30-years ago, I read about a blindfold experiment on directional perception that was performed in the lab using a simple turntable. Up to early puberty, the boys were confident and accurate. The grils were much less confident, but nearly as accurate. As puberty progressed, the boys' accuracy degraded, eventually approaching random - but the girls' accuracy scarecly changed. The authors of that experiment postulated a magnetic method similar to a pigeon's, and that the alignment was being disrupted by (unspecified) male hormones. This seems to be at odds with the coach(ing?) result reported above.

The following may be self-deception, but I remember about the age of seven knowing where to walk straight back to the entrance gate to a wooded park when my older brother expressed himself horribly lost. I don't seem to have that capability any more - but it could be that the car is causing some disruption.

Even so, I still haven't realigned all beds that I sleep in to be along the same axis.

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