We’ve known for some time that certain animals can navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field, but how they did it was a mystery.
Well, a little bit of that mystery may now be solved via a rather interesting experiment conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Tokyo.
You can find a detailed description of the experiment here but basically what it showed was that waving a magnet over a bunch of cells every 4 seconds caused the fluorescence [light emitting] of those cells to dim, proof positive that it was the magnet – ie magnetism – causing the effect. The scientists think this dimming was caused by the ‘radical pair mechanism’ at work in the cells:
“Essentially, if certain molecules are excited by light, electrons can jump between them to their neighbors. That can create pairs of molecules with a single electron each, known as a radical pair. If the electrons in those molecules have matching spin states, they will undergo chemical reactions slowly, and if they’re opposites the reactions occur faster.” [Emphasis is mine]https://newatlas.com/biology/live-cells-respond-magnetic-fields/
So why does this rather obscure discovery excite me so much? Because of that old quote from Hamlet:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,http://www.shakespeare-online.com/quickquotes/quickquotehamletdreamt.html
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
– Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio
Change the word ‘philosophy’ to ‘science’, and Shakespeare could have been describing how new discoveries are always expanding the boundaries of what we know about the real world.
For a science fiction writer like myself, this is manna from heaven because in one hundred years time, some bright spark may discover that telepathy is not so much supernatural as supranatural! [Don’t hit me! I’m using supranatural as a description of something that doesn’t fit into the physics of the normal world…like quantum mechanics. As I’m no physicist, however, I’ll submit to those who know better.]
Okay, I’ll stop there before I get too carried away, but you can see why I find these kinds of discoveries so exciting.
Take care and stay well,