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Previous Programs

2020 Consciousness in the Physical World
Awardees

2019 Intelligence in the Physical World
Awardees

2019 Information as Fuel
Awardees

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
Awardees; RFP download

2015 The Physics of What Happens
Awardees; RFP download

2013 Physics of Information
Awardees; RFP download

2010 The Nature of Time
Awardees; RFP download

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

Joseph Kirschvink
California Institute of Technology

Shinsuke Shimojo
California Institute of Technology

Felicity Meakins
University of Queensland



Project Title

Cross-Linguistic EEG Comparisons on the use of Geomagnetic Cues by the Human Brain as a Path for Understanding Consciousness

Project Summary

Consciousness depends in part on our ability to detect environmental stimuli (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell, etc.). Our recent discovery that humans possess a functioning geomagnetic sensory system like that used by migrating and homing animals extends the list of human senses; however, none of our subjects claimed conscious awareness of the geomagnetic field. So far, all the human subjects we have tested are native speakers of languages that use egocentric orientation terms (e.g., ‘left’, ‘right’). Individuals raised from an early age speaking and using languages that use geocentric orientation terms (e.g. ‘North’, ‘South’, ‘East’, ‘West’) such as the Gurindji People of northern Australia may have made associative links with geomagnetic sensory cues to aid in daily life. They may be consciously aware of the geomagnetic field, but do not attribute their awareness to a magnetic sense. We propose to do EEG based magnetoreception experiments, similar to those we have run on human subjects in the Northern Hemisphere, on native speakers of these languages. If magnetoreception is part of their conscious awareness, it could open a new window into the neurological activity that defines consciousness itself.



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