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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