Earth's Magnetic Field
Aurora Australis or "Southern lights" are seen in this picture captured by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) with a digital camera while they passed over the Indian Ocean, in this September 17, 2011 photograph. Reuters/NASA

A scientist in the US, Joe Kirschvink from the California Institute of Technology, believes that he has finally found evidence of humanity’s sixth sense. He claims that humans have the ability to detect Earth’s magnetic field in a subconscious way.

The ability to sense Earth’s magnetic field has been confirmed in certain mammals, insects and birds. They use this ability to orient themselves to the world around them and also to migrate. The researcher has said that humans may be more in touch with Earth than previously believed.

Kirschvink has identified the magnetic sense magnetoreception in humans in a small-scale study. The most-exciting part is that the geophysicist said that his experiment can be repeated and verified. The results of the unofficial trial that involved just 24 participants were presented at the 2016 meeting of the Royal Institute of Navigation in April.

Kirschvink has since received a funding of US$900,000 (AU$1,220,000) so that he can work with labs in New Zealand and Japan to help prove the magnetic sixth sense in humans.

“Joe's a very smart man and a very careful experimenter. He wouldn’t have talked about this at [this meeting] if he wasn’t pretty convinced he was right. And you can’t say that about every scientist in this area,” physical chemist Peter Hore from the University of Oxford and a leader in the magnetoreception field told Science.

Kirschvink designed a Faraday cage, a thin aluminium shield that can screen electromagnetic background noise using wire coils. In order to analyse the participants’ brain activity, he connected the participants to EEG monitors. The participants sat inside the cage in a darkened room and were exposed to only Earth’s magnetic field without any interference.

Next, a rotating magnetic field was introduced to the inside of the cage. He noted that when the magnetic field was rotating counter clockwise, people’s alpha waves showed a drop. That meant their brains were processing. He also noticed that there was a slight delay in neural response. Thus, the EEG monitor was picking up on brain activity and definitely not interference from the magnetism. Kirschvink believes that Magnetoreception may be the primal sense.