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Bird’s eye quantum states last longer than artificial systems

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In New Scientist’s “2011 review: The year in physics” (30 December 2011), Maggie McKee and Celeste Biever offer their top ten, including some unexpected items like “Quantum states last longer in birds’ eyes:

Migrating birds navigate by sensing Earth’s magnetic field, but the exact mechanisms at work are unclear. Pigeons are thought to rely on bits of magnetite in their beaks. Others, like the European robin (pictured), may rely on light-triggered chemical changes that depend on the bird’s orientation relative to Earth’s magnetic field.

A process called the radical pair (RP) mechanism is believed to be behind the latter method. In this mechanism, light excites two electrons on one molecule and shunts one of them onto a second molecule. Although the two electrons are separated, their spins are linked through quantum entanglement.

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2 Replies to “Bird’s eye quantum states last longer than artificial systems

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Quantum compass for birds – January 2011
    Excerpt: In the new research, physicists at the University of Oxford and the National University of Singapore calculated that quantum entanglement in a bird’s eye could last more than 100 microseconds — longer than the 80 microseconds achieved in physicists’ experiments at temperatures just above absolute zero,,, The new prediction interprets data from earlier experiments that hinted at a quantum basis for magnetic navigation in migrating birds. In 2006, researchers in Frankfurt, Germany, netted 12 European robins migrating from Scandinavia. Researchers locked the robins in a wooden room and applied small magnetic fields tuned to a frequency that would disturb entangled electrons, if the birds indeed relied on entanglement to navigate.
    The magnetic field, at 150 nanoTesla, was about 300 times weaker than Earth’s magnetic field, so it wouldn’t be expected to confuse the birds in the absence of an entanglement-based navigation system. But with the magnetic field on, the birds flew randomly instead of all flying in the same direction.
    http://www.sciencenews.org/vie....._for_birds

    In the 1930s, British ornithologist Edmund Selous – also fascinated by Starling flocks – attributed the tremendous variety of their formations to telepathy! I would have to say that a ‘non-local’ quantum compass would make telepathy of Starling flocking reasonable:

    Starlings – Murmuration
    http://vimeo.com/31158841

  2. 2
    SCheesman says:

    Nature had a brighter engineer.

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