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What’s a Cryptochrome?

Mar. 5, 2013|754 views
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As I mentioned yesterday, scientists have discovered a legitimate sixth sense; the ability to perceive electromagnetic fields. Plants and animals do this by using a protein called a cryptochrome. Birds use it to navigate by the Earth’s magnetic fields. Dubbed the “magnetic compass sense,” this sense evidently works like a compass built directly into the animal’s heads. Maybe that’s not so surprising. But here’s the really interesting part: This protein is found in all species. Including man.


The explanation for how this protein can be used to detect magnetic fields derives from our emerging understanding of quantum physics. It depends, in fact, on a strange, counter-intuitive phenomenon called quantum entanglement. I won’t go into detail here, but spinning pairs of electrons—and their special, quantum level relationship—plays a role in this mysterious sense.


Other creatures, such as certain types of fish, for instance, may use an alternate form of “compass sense” that relies on tiny particles of magnetic minerals to help detect subtle magnetic fields. But what does any of this have to do with humans? Tomorrow I’ll explain how and why this mysterious sixth sense may explain why some people are hypersensitive to electromagnetic “pollution”.



Hoang N, Schleicher E, Kacprzak S, Bouly JP, Picot M, Wu W, et al. Human and Drosophila cryptochromes are light activated by flavin photoreduction in living cells. PLoS Biol. 2008 Jul 1;6(7):e160. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060160.


Hogben HJ, Biskup T, Hore PJ. Entanglement and sources of magnetic anisotropy in radical pair-based avian magnetoreceptors. Phys Rev Lett. 2012 Nov 30;109(22):220501. Epub 2012 Nov 27.


Ritz T, Wiltschko R, Hore PJ, Rodgers CT, Stapput K, Thalau P, et al. Magnetic compass of birds is based on a molecule with optimal directional sensitivity. Biophys J. 2009 Apr 22;96(8):3451-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2008.11.072.


Ritz T, Adem S, Schulten K. A model for photoreceptor-based magnetoreception in birds. Biophys J. 2000 Feb;78(2):707-18.


Rodgers CT, Hore PJ. Chemical magnetoreception in birds: the radical pair mechanism. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jan 13;106(2):353-60. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0711968106. Epub 2009 Jan 7.


Wiltschko W, Wiltschko R. Magnetic orientation and magnetoreception in birds and other animals. J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2005 Aug;191(8):675-93. Epub 2005 May 11.

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