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May 3rd, 2010
Reverse-Engineering a Quantum Compass
If the weird rules of atomic physics do help birds find their way around the globe — as some scientists suspect — a new study has identified ways of finding out how.
The study is among the first to propose a direct test of how quantum entanglement, an effect that inexorably links two electrons in a way that Einstein called "spooky," could change the behavior of whole animals.
"This paper has really made a contribution by suggesting an experimental test," comments Thorsten Ritz, a physicist at the University of California, Irvine, who was not involved in the new work.
The new paper, which will appear in an upcoming issue of Physical Review Letters, builds on a growing body of evidence that the bizarre rules of quantum mechanics, which govern particles like atoms and electrons, can be exploited by living organisms to solve problems like photosynthesis and navigation.
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