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Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

人類有磁感嗎?生物學家知道其他動物有。他們認為這有助于蜜蜂、烏龜和鳥類等生物在世界遷徙。

Scientists have tried to investigate whether humans belong on the list of magnetically sensitive organisms. For decades, there’s been a back-and-forth between positive reports and failures to demonstrate the trait in people, with seemingly endless controversy.

科學家們試圖調查人類是否屬于磁敏感生物。幾十年來,在正面報道和未能在人們身上體現出這種特質之間,一直存在著一種反反復復的關系,爭議似乎永無止境。



Over the past 50 years or so, scientists have shown that hundreds of organisms in nearly all branches of the bacterial, protist and animal kingdoms have the ability to detect and respond to this geomagnetic field. In some animals – such as honey bees – the geomagnetic behavioral responses are as strong as the responses to light, odor or touch.

在過去50年左右的時間里,科學家們已經證明,在細菌、原生生物和動物王國的幾乎所有分支中,都有數百種生物體有能力探測到這種地磁場,并對其做出反應。在某些動物中,如蜜蜂,地磁行為反應與對光、氣味或觸摸的反應一樣強烈。

Biologists have identified strong responses in vertebrates ranging from fish, amphibians, reptiles, numerous birds and a diverse variety of mammals including whales, rodents, bats, cows and dogs – the last of which can be trained to find a hidden bar magnet. In all of these cases, the animals are using the geomagnetic field as components of their homing and navigation abilities, along with other cues like sight, smell and hearing.

生物學家已經在脊椎動物身上發現了強烈的反應,包括魚類、兩棲動物、爬行動物、許多鳥類,以及各種各樣的哺乳動物,包括鯨魚、嚙齒動物、蝙蝠、奶牛和狗——最后一種動物可以通過訓練來尋找隱藏的條形磁鐵。在所有這些情況下,這些動物都在利用地磁場作為它們的歸航和導航能力的組成部分,同時也利用視覺、嗅覺和聽覺等其他線索。



In normal life, when someone rotates their head – say, nodding up and down or turning the head from left to right – the direction of the geomagnetic field (which remains constant in space) will shift relative to their skull. This is no surprise to the subject’s brain, as it directed the muscles to move the head in the appropriate fashion in the first place.
In our experimental chamber, we can move the magnetic field silently relative to the brain, but without the brain having initiated any signal to move the head.

在正常的生活中,當一個人轉動他的頭部時——比如,上下點頭或者從左到右轉動頭部——地磁場的方向(在空間中保持不變)將相對于他的頭骨發生改變。這對受試者的大腦來說并不奇怪,因為它首先引導肌肉以適當的方式移動頭部。
在我們的實驗室內,我們可以相對于大腦無聲地移動磁場,但大腦沒有發出任何移動頭部的信號。

This is comparable to situations when your head or trunk is passively rotated by somebody else, or when you’re a passenger in a vehicle which rotates. In those cases, though, your body will still register vestibular signals about its position in space, along with the magnetic field changes – in contrast, our experimental stimulation was only a magnetic field shift. When we shifted the magnetic field in the chamber, our participants did not experience any obvious feelings.

這與你的頭部或身體被動地被別人轉動,或者你是一輛旋轉汽車里的乘客時的情況類似。然而,在這些情況下,你的身體仍然會隨著磁場的變化,記錄下前庭在空間中位置的信號——相比之下,我們的實驗刺激只是磁場的變化。當我們改變房間里的磁場時,我們的參與者沒有任何明顯的感覺。

The EEG data, on the other hand, revealed that certain magnetic field rotations could trigger strong and reproducible brain responses. One EEG pattern known from existing research, called alpha-ERD (event-related desynchronization), typically shows up when a person suddenly detects and processes a sensory stimulus. The brains were “concerned” with the unexpected change in the magnetic field direction, and this triggered the alpha-wave reduction. That we saw such alpha-ERD patterns in response to simple magnetic rotations is powerful evidence for human magnetoreception.

另一方面,腦電圖數據顯示,特定的磁場旋轉可以觸發強烈的、可重復的大腦反應。
現有研究中已知的一種腦電圖模式稱為阿爾法-ERD(事件相關的去同步化),通常出現在一個人突然發現并處理一種感官刺激時。大腦“關注”磁場方向的意外變化,這觸發了阿爾法波的減弱。我們在簡單的磁旋轉反應中看到了這種阿爾法是—ERD模式,這是人類磁接收的有力證據。



Moreover, our series of experiments show that the receptor mechanism – the biological magnetometer in human beings – is not electrical induction, and can tell north from south. This latter feature rules out completely the so-called “quantum compass” or “cryptochrome” mechanism which is popular these days in the animal literature on magnetoreception. Our results are consistent only with functional magnetoreceptor cells based on the biological magnetite hypothesis. Note that a magnetite-based system can also explain all of the behavioral effects in birds that promoted the rise of the quantum compass hypothesis.

此外,我們的一系列實驗表明,受體機制——人體的生物磁力儀——不是電磁感應,可以區分南北。后一種特性完全排除了所謂的“量子羅盤”或“隱花色素”機制,這種機制目前在有關磁接收的動物文獻中很流行。我們的結果僅與基于生物磁鐵礦假說的功能性磁受體細胞相一致。請注意,一個基于磁鐵礦的系統也可以解釋鳥類的所有行為效應,它們促進了量子羅盤假說的興起。



A human response to Earth-strength magnetic fields might seem surprising. But given the evidence for magnetic sensation in our animal ancestors, it might be more surprising if humans had completely lost every last piece of the system. Thus far, we’ve found evidence that people have working magnetic sensors sending signals to the brain – a previously unknown sensory ability in the subconscious human mind. The full extent of our magnetic inheritance remains to be discovered.

人類對地球磁場的反應似乎令人驚訝。但是,考慮到我們的動物祖先有磁感應的證據,如果人類已經完全失去了系統的每一部分,這可能會更令人驚訝。到目前為止,我們已經發現有證據表明,人們使用磁性傳感器向大腦發送信號,這是人類潛意識中一種以前未知的感覺能力。我們磁性遺傳的全部內容仍有待發現。