Magnetoreception

James Nestor talks about the incredible abilities of marine animals in his book Deep, and he compares humans, our evolutionary past, and our physical limits to those of marine mammals and other ocean life.  When speaking about diving to incredible depths and perceiving the world he refers to sharks, “Sharks, which can dive below six hundred and fifty feet, and much deeper, rely on senses beyond the ones we know.  Among them is magneto reception, an attunement to the magnetic impulses of the Earth’s molten core.  Research suggests that humans have this ability and likely used it to navigate across the oceans and trackless deserts for thousands of years.”  Nestor explains that at 600 feet below the surface the pressure exerted by the ocean is about twenty times grater than the atmospheric pressure at the surface.  This is the absolute limit of the human body, but other animals, whales and sharks for example, are able to survive these depths.

 

What this section speaks to me about is the incredible diversity in life on our planet. With conservation it is important that we do not force society into blocking projects and developments that may be crucial for societal advances on the basis of preserving natural harmony, but at the same time, seeing the incredible adaptations among all forms of life is inspiring and could unlock new potentials for humanity.  An adaption that leads sharks to be able to navigate by magnetic senses may not directly correlate to human advancement, but understanding that living organisms can adapt these senses may provide a spark of motivation for someone in the future. The possible breakthroughs in science, medicine, and technology are a strong base for expanding education and research of marine life, and that life must be protected through conservation in order for our continued research.  Unfortunately fun discoveries and potential discoveries that could help humanity cannot be considered always more important than a growing and improving society.  Individuals living along the coast rely on shipping, and forcing ports to close by changing shipping lanes so that we can better preserve and save a species of shark to study magnetorecption might not always be the best way to think of conservation.

 

Aside from conservation, what I am constantly reminded of when I read passages that deal with animal senses that seem alien when compared to human abilities, is that we truly do not know everything of our world.  I have come to understand that it is ok to not know everything about the world. It is difficult, but necessary for us to accept that we can not be 100 percent aware of everything around us or everything that influences us.  It is tempting after years of academic work to adopt the idea that one knows everything, can sense everything, and understands their perceptions of the world, but it is a fallacy.  We cannot perceive the world based on our perception of magnetic fields, and keeping that in mind helps us remember that we cannot sense and be aware of all the forces acting on our lives.  I have become comfortable with the idea that there are things that are hidden from me due to my lack of physical senses and mental perspectives.  That comfort helped me to understand that no matter how much I study something or think I know something, there are always different views and ideas that I cannot see which may hide information from me.  Knowing this allows me to listen to others and try to gain more perspectives.  I may not gain a new sense like magnetoreception, but knowing that it exists reminds me to be open.
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