Effects of Static Magnetic Fields on the Human Body

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by baptizo1403, Dec 25, 2010.

1. baptizo1403Registered Senior Member

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If the human body is exposed to a strong enough Static Magnetic Field is it possible that the static magnetic field would disperse every cell in the human body, simply making us cease to exist?

2. James RJust this guy, you know?Staff Member

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No.

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That's actually an interesting question - in sort of an off-hand way. No, it would not "disperse" any cells but it would certainty "disrupt" a good many - assuming the field was VERY, VERY strong. The most affected would be hemoglobin - the red cells in the blood. They would become magnetized and would then migrate to one side of the body resulting in a complete shutdown of oxygen being transported throughout the body. Death would follow pretty quickly.

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It would have to be a hell of a field to start pulling the iron out of our blood...

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Indeed!! Which is why I said the usage of "disperse" was incorrect. And in the narrative I presented I also said a "VERY, VERY strong" field would simply attract the red cells to one side of the body. It would require a field of TREMENDOUS intensity to actually extract the iron from the hemoglobin! I doubt that is even physically possible!

6. Billy TPlease use Sugar Cane Alcohol FuelValued Senior Member

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I am reasonable sure that blood would not be magnetic. Just having an iron atom does not make something magnetic. You need a bunch of iron atoms in a well organized structure, like a crystal to have magnetic properties. There is an INTERACTION between iron atom in such a structure than causes the group to be magnetic. As I recall due to the "exchange energy" the configuration with aligned magnetic moments* has the lower energy and is thus preferred.

Thus there would be no force on blood in a uniform magnetic field as it is not any tiny magnet. I don't know the electronic orbital binding of iron atom in the hemoglobin molecule but bet that the un-paired electron orbitals that permit iron to become magnetic via the exchange interaction energy are all paired with electrons of the binding molecules.

Note I am not 100% sure of all this. It is based on my understanding of how iron becomes magnetized. If I am wrong, I would appreciate some evidence that iron in blood would respond (be attracted towards) a strong magnetic field.

In any case, there would be other fatal effects of a very strong magnetic field before any effect on the blood would be noticed. For example each normal heat beat starts with a relaxation oscillator, called the sinal atrial node, in the right atrial part of the heart, then a depolarization wave current travel down the nerve fiber called the bundle of Hess to the rest of the heart. A very strong B field might even rip the bundle of Hess out of the heart. Possibly the normal depolarization waves of every nerve discharge would fail to propagate down their axons.
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* If iron in the hemoglobin molecules still has any atomic magnetic moments, they could precess around the field lines but that is not an attractive force on the atom.

Last edited: Dec 27, 2010
7. SkepticalRegistered Senior Member

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Magnetism can affect the human body. eg. Thermal effects. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12465291

However, it takes enormously strong magnetic fields to do this.
Sadly, there are vast numbers of quacks out there who pretend they can 'heal' the body with magnetic fields. Inevitably, they apply magnetic fields that are several orders of magnitude too weak to have even the most subtle effect.

Beware the quack who will steal your 

8. Billy TPlease use Sugar Cane Alcohol FuelValued Senior Member

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No, not true.

The heating effect is due 99.9+% to the ELECTRIC field of the EM wave, not the magnetic field when an AC ELECTROmagnetic field, such as described in your link, is applied; even a DC electric field can kill you but never a DC magnetic which man can make.

Your blood contains ions, such as Na+, K+, and the AC ELECTRIC field forces motion of them. - I.e. supplies kinetic energy, which typically is transfered to non-charged particles before even one oscillation cycle can finish and thereby the gained KE is randomized to become thermal energy (heat).

9. leopoldValued Senior Member

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i would be reasonably sure oxygen wasn't magnetic too, but liquid oxygen is indeed magnetic, albeit slightly.

10. Billy TPlease use Sugar Cane Alcohol FuelValued Senior Member

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I did not know that but it is consistent with what I believe: Name that magnetism is a collected effect due to the exchange interaction of many closely spaced atoms, if these atoms do have unpaired electrons (or something like that)* and the thermal energy is not high enough to disrupt this exchange interaction lowering of the total energy. I.e. magnetism only exists below some temperature, called the Curie Temperature, which is unique for all magnetic substances.

One should note that all materials have weak dia-magnetism that must be over come also.

As O2 is made from two O which has an even number of electrons, I am surprised that even the solid would be weakly magnetic (usually called "para-magnetic.")

11. fedr8081100101Valued Senior Member

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I don't know...

To be quite honest if the earth magnetic field which is probably amongst the strongest magnetic field any of us would likely experience cannot do the job, nor can it even cause significant symptoms yet it is able to withstand billions of years of bombardment by cosmic rays that would seem to imply that a magnetic field's influence on organic matter is extremely weak (relatively speaking)

12. billvonValued Senior Member

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Just having iron in something is insufficient to cause it to be attracted by a magnet (stainless steel is a good example.) Indeed, the diamagnetic effect in hemoglobin far outweighs any magnetic attraction by the iron contained within - which is why you can levitate frogs in a magnetic field without harming them.

However, there are a few effects that start to kick in at higher magnetic fields. One is the Lorentz force. Any charged particles that move through a magnetic field are deflected at right angles to the field. Since your brain operates via moving charges (moving waves of depolarization, to be precise) very strong magnetic fields can affect brain function. I recall an experiment where a researcher put his head in a field that is close to the strongest we can generate (around 5 tesla) and noted that any tiny movement of his head resulted in his seeing white flashes and tasting acid.

Beyond that - if you could generate a field of a few thousand tesla, it would eventually kill you. In a strong magnetic field, any atom that has any magnetic moment starts lining up. For the most part this is no big deal; indeed, it is what makes MRI scans possible. In very strong fields, any _molecule_ that has any magnetic moment at all (i.e. nearly all of them) start both lining up and elongating as the field interacts with their magnetic moment. This radically changes how those molecules interact with others; in other words, basic chemistry is changed. Since we rely on chemical reactions to survive, we wouldn't last very long.

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