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Injectible Compass

Magnetic injection that 'tingles' at magnetic south and north
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I'm told that certain birds are able to detect compass directions due to a small deposit of iron in their skulls that lets them sense magnetic north. With my sense of direction, this would be a godsend. It could possibly be done with something as simple as an injection (into the skull between the eyes) which simultaneously adds the necessary iron deposit, and encourages nerves to grow into said deposit.

If properly formulated, there should be no sign that the procedure ever took place, and the recipient will always know which way he's going.

Chrontius, Jul 05 2005

(?) Neurophone http://www.neurophone.com/home.htm
Never heard of them before... [zen_tom, Jul 06 2005]

[link]






       ...and will always point due north in the swimming pool. I think your best bet would be to have one of your inner ear bones replaced with a magnetized simulacrum. You'd fall over a lot, but you'd know which way you were falling. [+] btw.
Basepair, Jul 05 2005
  

       The sun still exists, that should be a good enough compass. Not to mention the fact that the magnetic north is shifting and will slowly disappear, to be replaced by the magnetic south. Furthermore, how can this injeciton cause nerves to grow into the deposit and have the nerves work to detect the minute shift in direction?
Kozi4361, Jul 05 2005
  

       [[The sun still exists, that should be a good enough compass.]] In theory. OTOH, west and south look very similar here in Florida at certain times of the year. Also, this doesn't work after dark or on cloudy days.   

       [[Not to mention the fact that the magnetic north is shifting and will slowly disappear, to be replaced by the magnetic south.]] And everyone with this injection will be long dead, barring radical breakthroughs in medicine -- if not from old age, then from the hellstorm of solar radiation that the collapse of the Van Allen belts and magnetic field will let through.   

       [[Furthermore, how can this injeciton cause nerves to grow into the deposit and have the nerves work to detect the minute shift in direction?]] Getting the nerves to respond is the easy part; the brain is wired to be programmable. Getting the nerves there is going to require either growing new nerve cells from stem cells, a patient's own tissue (IIRC, there was a study that demonstrated a technique to cause fat cells to turn into muscle cells and neurons), or injecting a hormone that stimulates nerve growth (more) naturally. I'm inclined to go with the hormonal treatment, simply because it requires fewer novel technologies, just application of recently developed ones.
Chrontius, Jul 05 2005
  

       The problem isn't getting nerves to grow to the implant (though getting them to respond to the movement of the iron could be tricky).
The real problem is in getting the neurons to map onto your cortex in some sensible way - there's no "vacant port" in your brain that's waiting for a "compass" input to be connected. If you connect at random, you might find that facing north results in a taste of lemon, a twitch in your left big toe, or an urge to whistle "Dancing Queen".
Basepair, Jul 05 2005
  

       You'll need a horizontal place to mount this. May I recommend the earlobe? You won't even need to implant it so much, just design a long, stong magnet as an earring. Earlobes are quite sensitive, and may be sensitive enough to feel a little pull towards north.
Worldgineer, Jul 05 2005
  

       I'm not convinced that even a strong magnet would exert a big enough force. But I'm not sure. Does anyone have any numbers for the torque generated by a plausibly-sized rare-earth bar magnet when it's pointing east-west?
Basepair, Jul 05 2005
  

       A powerful bar magnet in the penis should work, but don’t get too close to the refrigerator.
ldischler, Jul 05 2005
  

       Hmmm. Might be interesting to spend time near power lines.
Basepair, Jul 05 2005
  

       AC, I think I love you.
ldischler, Jul 05 2005
  

       Consider a nonferrous implant in the tongue. They exist! Mounted on it is a compass needle. The needle is up from the flesh, and does not touch, so it is free to turn on its implant support. From the needle hangs a single nylon filament. The filament is small enough not to drag, but can be perceived by the hypersensitive tongue.   

       To determine direction, one extends the tongue and feels for the filament. It might be necessary to do a full 360 turn to get the filament sweeping along, to remind you where it is. But this could be done today. We have the technology.
bungston, Jul 06 2005
  

       But imagine what a little needle on the tongue would do to oral sex...
Kozi4361, Jul 06 2005
  

       [[The problem isn't getting nerves to grow to the implant (though getting them to respond to the movement of the iron could be tricky). The real problem is in getting the neurons to map onto your cortex in some sensible way - there's no "vacant port" in your brain that's waiting for a "compass" input to be connected. If you connect at random, you might find that facing north results in a taste of lemon, a twitch in your left big toe, or an urge to whistle "Dancing Queen".]]   

       Then why do neurophones work?   

       Methinks there's unused bandwidth in the cranial nerves.
Chrontius, Jul 06 2005
  

       What's a neurophone?
zen_tom, Jul 06 2005
  

       I know that the implants that allow blind people to see work by having a microchip put directly into the brain, but that works because A: the chip is put directly into the visual part of the brain (which is very near the surface) and B: brains already know how to process images.
Kozi4361, Jul 06 2005
  

       Hmmm. Maybe this would work if you stuck a teeny bar magnet somewhere into the visual cortex. Its movement *might* disturb the surrounding cells enough that you'd see something (like a spot of blue or a shapeless edge) which you'd learn to associate with north/ south. Maybe.
Basepair, Jul 06 2005
  

       So, it turns out that birds' magnetic sense is not due to iron particles - it's much more interesting than that.   

       They use a light-sensitive molecule in the eye, but the Earth's magnetic field is sufficient to bias the way it responds to light, by a quantum mechanical mechanism. It's fantastically sensitive and very cunning, although it does mean that the magnetic sense does require some degree of light.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 19 2016
  

       One eye has a different polarisation than the other, which is how it allows them to sense it.
Ian Tindale, May 19 2016
  

       No, polarization sensitivity is a different sense.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 20 2016
  

       Ah. That’s how cows lie down, then, isn’t it?
Ian Tindale, May 20 2016
  

       No, that's Polar bears. Cows use an udder method ...
8th of 7, May 20 2016
  

       Polar bears cycle around with one hand over their noses, to ascertain which season the gravitational pull of the North pole is coming from (because there aren’t penguins there to point the way, they’ve all crossed the road).
Ian Tindale, May 20 2016
  

       Cows use an udder method? Now you're milking it...
normzone, May 20 2016
  
      
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