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Birds know quantum mechanics?

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From Washington Post:

“We think they are using quantum mechanics to navigate,” said Daniel Kattnig, a researcher in the chemistry department at Oxford University. Kattnig works in a lab that studies radical pairs — a phenomenon in which atoms acquire extra electrons that are “entangled” with one another, each affecting the other’s motion even though they’re separated by space. It’s a field of science that’s difficult to understand under the best of circumstances; imagine trying to figure out it out with a bird brain.

But according to an increasingly popular theory, birds and other animals use a radical pair-based compass to “see” the Earth’s magnetic field, allowing them to undertake great migrations and daring rescues without getting lost. It’s still unproven, but Kattnig and his colleagues just verified a key component: In a study in the New Journal of Physics on Thursday, they report that the timing of these subatomic interactions makes them a good candidate to explain avian navigation.More.

It’s all accidental. Please move on.

See also: Birds have more neurons than primates do.

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12 Replies to “Birds know quantum mechanics?

  1. 1
    nightlight says:

    Birds know quantum mechanics

    Duh. So does each of their (or your) molecules and atoms.

    The “news” has again fallen for the vacuous self-promotional PR material commonly peddled by many scientists nowadays.

  2. 2
    Dionisio says:

    Here’s the original paper:

    Electron spin relaxation can enhance the performance of a cryptochrome-based magnetic compass sensor

    Daniel R Kattnig, Jakub K Sowa, Ilia A Solov’yov, and P J Hore
    Published 9 June 2016 • © 2016 IOP Publishing Ltd and Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft
    New Journal of Physics, Volume 18, June 2016
    http://iopscience.iop.org/arti.....hPage=true

    Further work will be needed to determine (a) whether the enhancements discussed here survive in the presence of these other spin-relaxation pathways and (b) the consequences of J-modulation and electron hopping occurring in tandem.

    Under some circumstances, protein dynamics and appropriate magnetic interactions combine to produce anisotropic spin relaxation pathways that enhance the response of the compass to the direction of the geomagnetic field.

    As in other areas of ‘quantum biology’ […], interactions of the quantum system with a fluctuating environment appear to be critical for the quantum behavior […]

  3. 3
    PaV says:

    nightlight:

    Your statement is completely trivial. The world is, at bottom quantum mechanical. But here we must assume that the genome, via NS, was able to come up with a quantum mechanical solution to the problem of navigation. Humans haven’t perfected this yet.

    Do you really believe that random processes could have brought this about?

    If you answer, “Yes,” then this is much more credulous position that anything a believer in God must take.

    People still “believe” Elvis is alive. Humans are capable of all kinds of deception. Our reason protects us against this. Reason, OTOH, leads one to belief in God, not that NS is more intelligent than modern man.

  4. 4
    nightlight says:

    @3 “Do you really believe that random processes could have brought this about?”

    I never said that. Term “random process” is description of observer’s knowledge about object or process (the lack of knowledge), not of the object or process proper.

    Hence, such absurd question merely reveals fundamental confusion between the map and the territory, which is a common feature of the Seattle ID narrative.

  5. 5
    PaV says:

    nightlight:

    We, here at UD, aspires to be as brilliant as you. Perhaps, one day, we will succeed.

    Turning off the snide machine, your attempt to suggest that ID can be reduced to Alfred Korbyski’s notion of the “map and the territory” woefully misses the mark, I’m afraid. Philosophy has been dealing with such issues since the time of the empiricists. That’s not what we’re dealing with here.

    This is what ID is like:
    When archaeologist unearth arrowheads somewhere in Alabama, and they decide that it is the type of arrowhead associated with a tribe of Indians from millennia before, I assure you that this “knowledge” is nowhere to be found in the stone that comprises the arrowhead. Yet, the archaeologists are correct. When those Indians carved the arrowheads millenia before, they imparted “knowledge” to the stone they used, only to be reconstructed by trained professionals thousands of year later.

  6. 6
    nightlight says:

    @PaV When archaeologist unearth arrowheads somewhere in Alabama, and they decide that it is the type of arrowhead associated with a tribe of Indians from millennia before, I assure you that this “knowledge” is nowhere to be found in the stone that comprises the arrowhead.

    Well, of course the stone doesn’t have kind of knowledge needed to build arrowheads (after all, it doesn’t need them for anything).

    But stone, down to every one of its molecules has a different kind of knowledge and intelligence, pursuing different objectives.

    For example, every one among its trillions of Calcium atoms produces exactly the same spectra as every other one, in that stone or another one on Earth, on Moon, on Mars or anywhere in the universe. They do that with precision that we can only dream of being able to measure or calculate (we can do only approximate QM/QED calculations of such multi-electron spectra).

    How do they do it? What kind of algorithm and on what kind of hardware do they manage to figure it out and produce it so precisely, and do that many many orders of magnitude faster than our best minds and fastest computers can do it (which can only crudely approximate it anyway)?

    Hence, I don’t have issue with the existence of underlying intelligence built into the fabric of nature, computing and figuring out everything that goes, in every place and in every moment. It’s as obvious today as it was to ancient Greeks and others millennia ago.

    My issue with Seattle ID (Meyer & Co at DI) is that it is deliberately blind to the incredible intelligence that is already there, built in and permeating everything, from atoms, molecules, cellular biochemical networks,… in order to (not overly subtly) hint at occasional, capricious interventions by deus ex machina (god of gaps), which just happens to be some tribal deity of mideastern shepherds from few thousand years ago.

    There is no need for anything from outside to have to step in and out of universe to tweak molecules into cells or cells into multicellular organisms, or multicellular organisms into mammals or mammals into humans, or humans into technological societies,… All the needed intelligence is and was right there all along, built in, propagating from inside out, from small to large scale.

    The same general construction pattern repeats throughout the hierarchy — the networked collections of smaller computing systems design and build larger ones, in their own image as it were (the same kind of distributed self-programming computer, neural network type) and capable of doing/computing things that the no smaller one can do on its own. Humans do it while building scientific / technological societies, cells do it while building organisms (example ontogensis & biological evolution), molecules do it while building cellular biochemical networks (the brains of Shapiro’s “natural genetic engineer”), all the way down as far we can see. The reason bottom up method of natural science works so well and is so fertile is precisely because it closely mimics this bottom up computation & construction pattern that nature itself uses.

  7. 7
    PaV says:

    nightlight:

    My issue with Seattle ID (Meyer & Co at DI) is that it is deliberately blind to the incredible intelligence that is already there, built in and permeating everything, from atoms, molecules, cellular biochemical networks,… in order to (not overly subtly) hint at occasional, capricious interventions by deus ex machina (god of gaps), which just happens to be some tribal deity of mideastern shepherds from few thousand years ago.

    I’ve read your post lightly.

    As to this comment, I firmly disagree. However, someone who is part of the “Seattle ID,” is a person named Michael Denton. He takes, more-or-less, your position. He’s just written a book. Maybe you would enjoy it.

    It’s “Evolution: A Theory Still in Crisis.” He believes everything is “front-loaded” in life, a position that is near yours. I don’t subscribe to it as I’ve stated. But there it is.

  8. 8
    PaV says:

    nightlight:

    I think you should actually read Denton’s “Nature’s Destiny” first. You’ll really enjoy that, and it will set the stage for his latest book.

  9. 9
    nightlight says:

    As I recall, Denton (Australian) is not a member of “Seattle ID” (Discovery Institute). Yes, his position is quite different and more aligned with the classic ID of many great philosophers and scientists (no deus ex machina, no capricious intervention from outside).

  10. 10
    mike1962 says:

    nightlight: My issue with Seattle ID (Meyer & Co at DI) is that it is deliberately blind to the incredible intelligence that is already there, built in and permeating everything, from atoms, molecules, cellular biochemical networks,…

    Cellular biochemical networks were “already there?”

    in order to (not overly subtly) hint at occasional, capricious interventions

    Capricious? Is it capricious of me when I, say, design a computer system and modify it later to accommodate changing circumstances? BTW, several information methods of information input have been proposed, such as frontloading with cueing on certain environment changes, virii, and so forth. It’s conceiveable that all the information needed for the design goals of the creator(s) were place here right at the start. But it’s also possible there was some direct intervention from the creator(s) at certain points. Why would this be necessarily be “capricious?”

    What is clear to me is that scientific understanding, unraveling of earth’s biological systems is at an infancy, and the subject looks almost too big for us. The large gaps are generally filled in by peoples’ preconceived biases. Which is why the arguments never cease. Nobody has any right at all to make grand sweeping statements about a creator or lack of one based on what is currently known scientifically.

  11. 11
    nightlight says:

    @mike1962 Cellular biochemical networks were “already there?”

    Yes, for intelligence behind biological evolution, they were there and were sufficient. What is commonly called ‘origin of life’ problem is the obvious next question.

    The next type of system at the level below cell are atoms, molecules and (quantum) fields. Hence the cellular intelligence (biochemical networks) was designed and built by these systems.

    Note that conventional view of our present physics doesn’t see these systems as intelligent — they’re dumb objects set in some initial & boundary conditions, then merely following physical laws. The gigantic herd of elephants in the room are the ‘initial & boundary conditions’ which are data left unexplained by physics itself, they’re simply taken as givens (by what or whom?).

    If you look at computations in conventional physics as an algorithm, as a program running on a computer (which is one way to do it), then there are two kinds of inputs into this program — a small fraction of bytes in memory consisting of opcodes for the physical laws plus a far larger number of bytes representing hand put initial and boundary conditions (equivalent to deus ex machina, or the stuff we don’t know how to explain).

    The boundary between the two kinds of inputs is an artifact of particular degree of development of physics i.e. it is a property of our knowledge about the systems not the property of the systems proper. As our knowledge about physical systems and their laws increases and deepens, the boundary shifts assigning more of the above ‘opcode bytes’ into the ‘understood’ part of the input (the laws) and leaving less in the hand put part (the initial & boundary conditions).

    Therefore it is meaningless to say, as Meyer and other Seattle ID folks often do, that some observed artifacts are results of physical laws, while others are results of intelligent action. Namely, the latter form is done only via the modulation of the initial & boundary conditions of the system being ‘intelligently’ constructed. When you intelligently write by hand some meaningful sentence on paper, that can only occur by your fingers changing the pressure or force on the pencil’s boundary thus modulating the boundary conditions of that pencil. You can’t move the pencil by just thinking your sentence, without exerting very specific force on the pencil.

    Meyer and his DI friends have a grossly misguided notion that somehow the above distinction between the effect on initial & boundary conditions of some system (which is the mechanism for intelligent intervention) vs the constraints by the physical laws on the system is a fundamental property of the systems themselves. In fact there is no such distinction as the property of the system. The distinction between the two kinds of inputs into physics algorithm is a pure artifact of particular historical moment in the development of physics and has nothing to do with the systems themselves. In effect, Meyer & friends are confusing the map and the territory, which is a characteristic trait of the ‘god of gaps’ theologies. In their theology, the god somehow aligns with and reshapes himself for some reason to fit precisely within the gaps between the islands of our particular level knowledge at present time (which determine what are the ‘physical laws’ and what the ‘initial & boundary conditions’ through which an intelligent agency acts on the systems).

    Hence, before OOL is understood scientifically in a manner that cells, biological organisms and their evolution are understood, physics will need to undergo major revolution that will unveil the more subtle computational substratum underlying what we presently happen to distinguish as ‘physical laws’ and ‘boundary & initial conditions’. The theories of ‘digital physics’ (cellular automata, adaptable networks) are merely the initial shot of this revolution in fundamental physics.

    This revolution will be analogous to the revolution which started in biology from 1950s, when what was previously seen as dumb globules of proteins with bunch of random chemical reactions was revealed to be sophisticated computational substratum constructing and controlling nano-technology that is in its complexity and sophistication far beyond any human technology.

    In my view, there is no OOL (origin of life) problem, since there is no such boundary between live and non-live as the property of the systems themselves. The boundary is a transient artifact of the gap between our understanding of biology and physics. The intelligent systems (i.e. computational processes running anticipatory optimization algorithms) at one level design and build larger systems at the next level ‘in their own image’, as it were, as a form of additional optimization.

    Humans intelligently designing and building technological societies are merely one link in the chain of similar kind of computational processes going on all levels below, happening at all scales and at all times. Hence, everything is live all the way down, just manifesting life in different ways (which is no different than distinctions between species or plants and animals — we don’t call one kind live and one non-live).

  12. 12
    Gordon Cunningham says:

    It is a misnomer to say that they “know” quantum mechanics. That would be like saying that bats and Dolphins “know” sonar because they use it to catch prey. Or that fish “know” hydrodynamics because they swim. Or that Babe Ruth “knew” calculus because he could throw and hit a baseball.

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