It sounds like something from X-Men, but geophysicist Prof Joe Kirschvink believes we may have a sixth sense that allows us to sense Earth’s magnetic field in the same way that some birds can – we’ve just forgotten how to use it. And he’s been performing a series of experiments to try to figure out if that’s the case.
Deep underground at Caltech in the US, Kirschvink had 24 volunteers hooked up to brainwave monitors and sat, in complete darkness, inside a Faraday cage. This structure blocks out electromagnetic background noise. He then applied a rotating magnetic field similar in strength to Earth’s around them. When the field was rotated in an anticlockwise direction, Kirschvink recorded a drop in the alpha waves in the volunteers’ brains. This kind of drop is normally associated with brain processing, which suggests that the volunteers’ neurons were firing in response to the moving magnetic field and so were able to subconsciously sense it.
The results have not yet been peer-reviewed, but two other labs are working on replicating the experiments.