"The best theory of bird navigation implies that nature has found a way to preserve entanglement in messy biological systems at body temperature."
Quantum entanglement' occurs when the quantum state of two particles are linked, irrespective of the distance between the particles. It is a key concept in 'quantum information theory' which has application in computing, cryptography and communications. Although progress has been made in developing applications, quantum information is fragile, persisting for only short periods of time in specialized materials and at very cold temperatures.
Researchers led by Vladko Vedral at the University of Oxford believe that quantum entanglement is involved in the mechanism that allows birds to 'see' magnetic fields. Their work implies that the entanglement can last for up to 100 microseconds in a 'wet and warm' environment, whereas the best laboratory results are in the order of 80 microseconds.
There is no evidence that birds actually exploit quantum entanglement to navigate. As in First Evidence of Entanglement in Photosynthesis, it is possible that quantum entanglement is a by-product of other processes. Nevertheless, if confirmed, this research may allow us to apply tools from quantum physics to better understand animal navigation and photosynthesis. Research into how biological systems can maintain stable quantum entanglement at room temperatures has the potential for advancing the applications of quantum information theory. Lastly, the hunt is on for biological mechanisms that actively use quantum entanglement.
- Quantum coherence and entanglement in the avian compass
(highly technical analysis of the Radical Pair Model of chemical magnetoreception)
- Quantum entanglement in photosynthetic light harvesting complexes (evidence for entanglement in noisy, non-equilibrium biological systems, specifically photosynthesis by green anoxygenic bacteria)