Follow the Cows


A few weekends ago, when I arrived at a restaurant where I was supposed to meet a friend, I discovered it was closed for a private party. When I called my friend for an alternate venue, he told me to head west toward Southport and...

West? West didn't help me at all. I am terrible with directions like this (please- give me a right or left). I realize that, especially in a city like Chicago, one should easily be able to orient themselves and follow cardinal directions. In my defense, it was dark, and raining, so I wasn't in the mood for a learning experience. But, to be completely honest, I have a hard time finding my way west (or in any other direction) even on a bright, sunny day, unless the lake is in plain sight (east!) or I happen to be holding a compass.

Which is why I was intrigued when I found this article on NPR. Last year, researchers in Europe determined that cows have an internal magnetic compass (like bats) by observing that grazing and resting cows tended to face north or south. Now, they've determined that high-voltage power lines can disturb this compass, as cows in surrounding areas graze in random directions. Interestingly, if the power lines run east/west, then cows tend to align themselves east/west as well, further indicating that these magnetic fields affect cow behavior.

So, at least the cows that get lost heading to Southport have an excuse. Me? Not so much.



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