Monday, November 1, 2010

Thoughts on the One Year Anniversary of

The site went live on October 25, 2009. The content on the site represented a summary of 2 years of my own independent research. This research suggests that I have the ability to perceive the Earth’s magnetic field, and that this ability directly influences how I feel. My psychiatric symptoms (OCD + tics + mild chronic depression) are navigational tools, directing me toward magnetic home. I had observed magnetic home (aka “The Happy Zone”) in Utah and North Carolina. By recording GPS coordinates and observing how my magnetic home moved in response to things like changes in bedtime and bed angle, I had acquired a great deal of data. I wrote a research paper that presented the data with my analysis. Before going public with the data, I first contacted some researchers, sending them my abstract and asking if they wanted to read the full paper. I found it difficult to select researchers to query, as I wasn't aware of anyone doing research in the navigational aspect of human magnetoreception. (Robin Baker studied this in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but has since moved onto other things). Only one (a British researcher who specialized in parapsychology research) asked to see the paper, and he didn’t provide any feedback.

Disappointed by the lack of interest in this initial query, I decided to adopt the pseudonym “Harry Magnet,” purchase a domain name, and put the research paper and some other information on the website. I had two goals in doing this:
  1. Since I had no idea who might be interested in studying human magnetoreception, instead of my trying to find them, I’d let them find me.
  2. I wanted to find out if there were other people with similar magnetoreceptive abilities as mine.

I utilized Google Adwords to market the site, along with sending select queries to additional researchers. After some time, my site became listed in the first 3 pages of relevant search results, such as “human magnetoreception” and “human magnetic sense.” Some people clicked on my Two Mysteries multimedia article by doing a Google image search.

After a year, I haven’t made much progress in either of my goals. Only one researcher has given me any feedback about my paper, an American psychologist named Jorge Conesa-Sevilla (whom I had queried). No one has expressed any interest in researching the human magnetoreception phenomena I describe in my paper. There may be some people conducting research without telling me, but I have no reason to believe that any such research is happening.

Perhaps more disappointing to me is the lack of feedback among people with similar magnetoreceptive abilities. I created an Are You Sensitive page, with some simple steps that people could take to verify whether or not they are magnetoreceptive. I provided several ways for people to provide feedback, including Facebook, anonymously commenting on my blog, and also contacting me directly. I only heard back from two people, who provided information suggesting that they may be magnetoreceptive, but I was unable to follow up with them.

I thought that my website might generate some online buzz, but there have only been two sites I’m aware of that have mentioned me. One, a bipolar discussion forum, talked about me soon after my site became live. Another, a mental health blog, mentioned one of my book reviews. While I’m grateful to these authors for their mentioning me, I was hoping for a great deal more buzz after a year.

I’m not currently doing Google Adwords. I get only a handful of daily hits to my site and blog. Otherwise, nothing. To what do I attribute my lack of success?

One observation I’ve made is that while it’s easier than ever to publish, it’s harder than ever to get anyone to read what you publish. The Web has allowed anyone with a computer and Internet connection to have a voice. While this democratization of publishing is a good thing, it has created a situation in which there is so much content that it’s very hard to distinguish the few gems from the mass of irrelevant, poorly written, and useless body of information. I imagine that the few people who have clicked on my site take a cursory look and then say to themselves, “Harry Magnet, who’s he? Why should I spend my time reading this stuff?” They then leave the site.

This is where a middleman can be very useful. A creative person cannot achieve eminence alone. He needs a middleman, an intermediary to tell people that his idea is important and worthy of notice. In the past, publishers and agents served this gatekeeping role, but today it is very hard for someone without a name to get published. I didn’t even try.

The problem with my project is that all my results are based on subjective experience. That’s why I’d never get published by a peer-reviewed journal, or book or magazine publisher. The middleman I need at present is a scientist willing to research human magnetoreception, to put to the test the claims I make in my research paper. Successful results, published in a peer-reviewed journal, would bring me attention and support.

As I said above, I’m not aware of anyone in the world studying the navigational aspects of human magnetoreception. That implies that if I want to find someone to research this, I’d need to convince him to go beyond his narrow subspecialty and begin a new field of research. It’s hard to find such a person, even though there are people studying related phenomena such as the human magnetic sense, and bioelectromagnetics. Scientific research in general has become very conservative, with few people daring to study new things. Curiosity was the primary motivator of the great scientists of the past, and I need at least one scientist to become curious enough about my project to risk defying conventional wisdom.

Another potential middleman is a practitioner willing to work with me to try out my techniques on other people. I’ve made some changes to my sleeping behavior and environment that have helped me feel better. Others can make similar changes. I have no credentials and cannot be an independent practitioner, but I’d like to work with someone. This will likely be someone I meet locally, as it is hard to try these techniques from a distance.

My experience the past year has convinced me that it was a mistake to rely solely on online media to spread my message. I should have focused more on developing local connections. One reason for this is that although I have a presence on Facebook, I have little interest in acquiring virtual friends. I prefer face-to-face interaction, and have a difficult time trusting or befriending people I haven’t met in person. Due to my exclusive use of online media, I haven’t made any progress on answering these important questions:
  • Who else has magnetoreceptive abilities like mine?
  • What psychiatric disorders are connected to magnetoreception?
  • How different are others’ magnetoreceptive experiences compared to mine?

I’m going to be leaving North Carolina soon, and I’m not sure yet where I’ll end up living. Wherever it is, I’ll try to network with other people with psychiatric disorders, along with practitioners and researchers. I’ll keep the website, Facebook page, and blog up, and utilize it both as something to refer my local connections to, along with having an online presence. Hopefully by the time of the second year anniversary of, I’ll have more positive results to convey.