Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 13: Winter 1981

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











The Human Compass

In recent years, scientists have found magnetic material (magnetite) in birds, snails, porpoises, bacteria, and other animals. The utility of these biologically manufactured compasses is obvious. Humans, too, seem to have a magnetic sense, although no one has yet dissected the human head to search for magnetite crystals. Rather, the proof of a magnetic sense comes from direction-finding experiments by Robin R. Baker, in England.

In a series of tests involving many subjects, blindfolded humans have been taken far afield and then asked, while still blindfolded, to point "home" and north. The results were surprising. Sense of direction was not lost despite long journeys. Furthermore, tests after removal of the blindfolds showed a marked deterioration of the directionfinding ability. The attachment of magnets and simulated magnets to the subjects proved that the magnets upset di-rection-finding capabilities. The controls with brass "magnets" retained their magnetic sense.

(Baker, Robin R.; "A Sense of Magnetism," New Scientist, 87:844, 1980.)

Reference. To read more about the human navigation sense, see BHT18 in our Catalog: Biological Anomalies: Humans I. This book is described here.

From Science Frontiers #13, Winter 1981. 1981-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987