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[Io9]Birds might actually be using quantum mechanics to find their way...

post #1 of 10
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Finally a story about birds that doesn't involve them falling out of the sky. We know that robins, like many other animals, uses the Earth's magnetic field to navigate, but we don't know how. The answer could be quantum mechanics.Although birds are probably the most famous magnetic navigators, the technique of sensing subtle variations in our planet's magnetic field is also used by creatures like bacteria and mole rats. But just how any of these critters manage to sense the Earth's magnetic field has long been a mystery. The leading hypothesis suggests that the field could affect small iron molecules in a bird's eyes, but new research suggests the real mechanisms might be much, much weirder.

http://io9.com/5729061/birds-might-a...ough-the-skies
post #2 of 10
Now thats something weird.
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post #3 of 10
What I don't understand is what organ in the birds' body that can detect these things.
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post #4 of 10
I thought there was some kind of mineral in their beak or brain or something that detected these fields. That's what public schools taught me, anyway...
post #5 of 10
Is there any animal that is thought not to use quantum mechanics?
post #6 of 10
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Originally Posted by assaulth3ro911 View Post
Is there any animal that is thought not to use quantum mechanics?
a good example of an animal that uses it quite well

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post #7 of 10
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The results were stunning, as the robins became disoriented and flew aimlessly around the room whenever the field was turned on. At 150 nanoTesla, the field was about 300 times weaker than the Earth's magnetic field, which means the birds should never have become disoriented unless they really were using quantum entanglement to navigate. It does seem to rule out the iron molecule hypothesis, as the field would need to be 100 to 1000 times stronger for iron to be affected.
Wonder if that's what happened in Arkansas? Those silly birds and their quantum mechanics failures causing blue screens of death.
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post #8 of 10
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Originally Posted by kora04 View Post
What I don't understand is what organ in the birds' body that can detect these things.
Read the article--their eyes. A light-active protein absorbs light, converts to electrons, ejected from the molecule and are "entangled," the electrons react to the earth's magnetic field.

The article exploits the term quantum-entanglement, but it's not really in the spirit of quantum-entanglement that's studied in the lab.

What I want to know is what through-space quantum entanglement has to do with this? It's not quantum-entanglement in the sense of the word that explains long-scale interactions over time. The electrons are knocked to the same state of momentum (call it orbital, angular, whatever)--they'll retain that until perturbed by some other system--i.e. the earth's magnetic field, or in the specific case, the earth's magnetic field + the momentum of the other electron that gets retained in the molecule, and the bird interprets this--through some receptor or something--and flys in a certain direction.

But this isn't quantum-entanglement that scientists are trying to create and understand in the lab. All is is generating two electrons of the same initial momentum, one remains where it was generated and another is displaced, changes its' momentum, and the DIFFERENCES between the electrons' momenta are then interpreted. If anything, the bird uses quantum detanglement to navigate--this won't help scientists to understand quantum entanglement anymore than they already do.

Something very similar to this is used in electron paramagnetic resonance for studying how molecules behave in different chemical environments. It's nothing new or surprising. I guess the only new thing is isolating this mechanism in the eye of the bird--which is impressive.
    
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post #9 of 10
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Originally Posted by guyladouche View Post
Read the article--their eyes. A light-active protein absorbs light, converts to electrons, ejected from the molecule and are "entangled," the electrons react to the earth's magnetic field.
so does that mean they see the world like this?

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post #10 of 10
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Originally Posted by guyladouche View Post
Read the article--their eyes. A light-active protein absorbs light, converts to electrons, ejected from the molecule and are "entangled," the electrons react to the earth's magnetic field.
So they have a HUD telling them where they are in relation to the field?
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