Taylor Swift has a way of talking about the men she loves. Sometimes they have a James Dean daydream look in their eye, other times they look like her next mistake. In Swift’s newest single, “Gorgeous,” her language takes a scientific turn. It’s not just that this guy is super hot; it’s that his actual pulsating electrical energy is too hard to resist.
“You should take it as a compliment / That I got drunk and made fun of the way you talk,” Swift croons in the song. “You should think about the consequence / Of your magnetic field being a little too strong.”
It’s possible that Swift isn’t just getting metaphorical here. Humans can produce external magnetic fields from biological materials, a reaction from a process called biomagnetism. These magnetic fields that emerge from a human body, however, are very weak. So weak that she’d need a very sensitive magnetometer — a superconducting quantum interference device, otherwise known as a SQUID, for instance — to detect her guy’s (hello, Joe Alwyn) magnetic field. Or she’s basically a superhero.
Let’s suppose Swift has a SQUID handy. How does the human body produce a magnetic field, you ask? There are two ways. The first is from the natural ion currents in the body’s muscles and nerves giving a person a magnetic field outside of their chest, which is also known as a magnetocardiogram. Chemical reactions cause tiny electrical currents to emerge as a part of normal bodily functions — like when nerves relay signals by transmitting electric impulses.
“The same ion currents in the brain that give you the EEG,” explained MIT professor and neuroscientist David Cohen, Ph.D., in a 2008 lecture, “give you a magnetic field outside the brain.”
The second way a human can create a magnetic field is through particles. People can breathe magnetic dust into their lungs, and if that dust settles in the lungs or stomach, that magnetization can resonate outside of the body. Importantly, a body’s magnetic field is very different than an electromagnetic field, which is the range of electricity that’s transmitted over high voltage lines that can then cause circulating currents within the human body to increase. Earth has it’s own magnetic field as well, but scientists are still debating whether humans can actually sense it or not.
While Taylor can’t actually sense magnetic fields, it’s certainly a good line for a love song. After all, in some cases, fields arise from the ion flow in the heart and the brain, the two subjects that Swift most often makes go toe-to-toe in the name of romance.