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I am trying to come up with an explanation for how a creature could create strong magnetic fields with a high level of control. I'm thinking that their 'writing' would be similar to how computers write to hard disks, which is why I'd like them to have a fine degree of control over this ability. I do have a mineral native to their system that is highly reactive to magnetism and is used extensively in their tech as their hands are not quite as dexterous as ours to manipulate things. I'm also not sure just how strong a field they really need with the existence of this mineral as I am perfectly fine with them being only able to nudge a chunk of iron, compared to being able to levitate moderate weights of this material. Still in the early phases of working out how such a mineral would be dispersed through, and what affect it would have on, an environment.

I suppose they will need some type of organ similar to the ones in electric eels to generate a current to power said field. So I guess my main question is: Is there a combination of electrolytes that is more efficient/powerful than the sodium and potassium that eels use? Could a creature be able to generate stronger fields, but also make highly controlled ones?

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I think that if you want to have what you are asking for, you don't have to look into different electrolytes but into a completely different mechanism.

With the electrolytes you basically create a separation of charges by pumping ions on just one side of a barrier. When you remove the barrier, ZAP, you have the spark. Of course this mechanism is useful if you want to create a pulse, not a constant current. More or less what happens when you discharge a capacitor.

If you want a constant-ish current, you would need two materials with different redox potentials and have a saline solution between them. Basically a biological version of a battery. This type of organ might then serve to produce a current, and the current would induce a magnetic field.

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How about an organism that uses conductive material to build some kind of shell? Like some sort of really giant snail with a big coil of wire where the shell would be. It could ingest magnetic materials which it normally uses like a gastrolith. But when the animal wants to make electric current, it can move its magnetic gastrolith around in such a way that it acts like a giant generator. Control would come from increasing or decreasing the amount of resistance on the way to whatever sort of organ... maybe another coil that acts like an electromagnet, attached to an extremity. If the materials are really magnetic/conductive or your needs are lesser, you could do the same with a smaller organ.

Another idea would be a bank of naturally occuring graphene capacitors.

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Could the organism just incorporate ferromagnetic materials into it's body? Like a lot of tiny magnets.

It could control the magnatism by flipping different pieces to either create parallel or opposite magnetic fields (opposite ones would cancel, turning the effect 'off').

Active magnetism would need quite a lot of current. You'd need really great conductors (I think no biological material comes close to copper or silver, but I'm not sure). It'd probably still take excessive amounts of energy.

You know that video of the frog floating in a magnetic field? The amount of power needed for that has a noticable effect on the city power supply. Biology usually doesn't have that kind of energy available.

If you could get a superconductor, then you could do it with almost no energy use. But all known superconductors only work at temperatures far below freezing. Sweating is not enough to cool to below -200C, not to mention insulation...

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  • $\begingroup$ I had no idea it took that much power just to levitate a frog. $\endgroup$
    – Kat
    Nov 9, 2020 at 3:30
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Maybe you can look into what our nature has to offer, for instance with the electrolocation capabilities of certain mammals like the platypus, or shocking capabilities of electric eels. A small non exhaustive list of examples can be found here here.

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Would a large group of electric eels suffice? If they synced their discharges, and others reabsorb them, they could create a constant current exchange, thus a magnetic field..

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_eel

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  • $\begingroup$ I woukd like for each individual to be able to generate a field. :) $\endgroup$
    – Kat
    Nov 9, 2020 at 3:28
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Could you look at this the other way round? How do homing birds navigate? How do water- or mineral-diviners dowse? Don’t the birds use tiny, highly sensitive organs? Don’t the dowsers use rods not to create, but to amplify some inherent sensitivity?

What’s a “strong” field or a “high” level of control and how much less dexterous are these critters? My guess is the “chunk” to be nudged might start about fist size, but up to what? An anvil? A dining table? What’s your difference between nudging and levitating and what’s a “moderate weight”? Are you basically looking to use this power to move roughly the same sort of weight the creature could heave physically?

I don’t think there’s much control or range in the charges from electric eels or the like but take a few steps sideway.

In Star Wars microscopic midi-chlorian symbiotes inside the cells of all living things form some sort of energy field, perceived as the Force… but note, “some sort of” is about as close as anyone gets to understanding.

Similarly in Philip Pullman's Books of Dust, elementary Rusakov particles are somehow associated with consciousness. Again, “somehow” is all we really get, unless it be the new slant on Genesis’ “… dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”.

So, two different forms of "field" extending hugely yet under skilled control…

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