Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh, The Loh Down on Science is a fun way to get your daily dose of science plus a dash of humor in less than two minutes.
Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh
Airs Weekdays 2:31, 3:31 and 5:49 a.m.

Common Sense

Unlike Luke Skywalker, maybe you can't feel the force. But can you see it?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, and on magnetoreception, the ability to sense the earth's magnetic field.

Scientists love to argue about who can and can't use it. Turtles? You betcha! Birds? Some. Cows? Maybe, but it's controversial.

Now neuroscientists in Worcester, Massachusetts, say humans may get a Yes.

Some researchers think the ability to sense the magnetic field--and to use it for orientation--arises from light-sensitive chemical reactions involving a protein called cryptochrome 2.

And guess what? Human retinas have cryptochrome 2. In spades!

The scientists inserted the human type of crytochrome into fruit flies bred without the protein, and who were hence magnetoreceptively challenged. The gene restored the fruit flies' ability to sense magnetic fields.

But don't throw away your compass just yet. Just because fruit flies can use the force doesn't mean you can. Yet.

So hang on to that GPS next time you're attacking the Death Star, Luke. Just saying.

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