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Earth's Magnetic Field

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Sixth Sense
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A Sixth Sense

Topic

Magnetoreception

Student Exploration

What if you could determine your direction by detecting the Earth’s magnetic field with your eyes?

Certain birds use light-sensitive magnetosensors to migrate and current studies show that we may have the ability to develop this skill as well: http://www.ks.uiuc.edu/Research/magsense/

Are we developing our sixth sense?

Extension Investigation

  1. Birds, bats, and turtles have been known to detect the Earth’s magnetic field to orient themselves much as we use a compass. Look up the magnetic declination of where you live: http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/geomagmodels/Declination.jsp Why do you think that the magnetic declination of where you live is different from someone that lives further north or further south?
  2. Using NOAA’s site as a reference (http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/geomag/faqgeom.shtml), does the magnetic pole shift over time? Draw (by hand or digitially) a story that shows how this is recorded on the ocean floor.
  3. For fun: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2008/08/25/google-earth-shows-that-cow-and-deer-herds-align-like-compass-needles/

Resources Cited

Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group. University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign. http://www.ks.uiuc.edu/Research/magsense/

NOAA. http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/geomagmodels/Declination.jsp

Discover Magazine. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2008/08/25/google-earth-shows-that-cow-and-deer-herds-align-like-compass-needles/

Jeanna Bryner. Live Science. http://www.livescience.com/14694-humans-sixth-sense-magnetic-fields.html

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