Sustained quantum coherence and entanglement in the Avian Compass

Erik M. Gauger, Elisabeth Rieper, John J. L. Morton, Simon C. Benjamin, Vlatko Vedral

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Abstract

In artificial systems, quantum superposition and entanglement typically decay rapidly unless cryogenic temperatures are used. Could life have evolved to exploit such delicate phenomena? Certain migratory birds have the ability to sense very subtle variations in Earth's magnetic field. Here we apply quantum information theory and the widely accepted "radical pair'' model to analyze recent experimental observations of the avian compass. We find that superposition and entanglement are sustained in this living system for at least tens of microseconds, exceeding the durations achieved in the best comparable man-made molecular systems. This conclusion is starkly at variance with the view that life is too "warm and wet'' for such quantum phenomena to endure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number040503
Number of pages4
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Volume106
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2011

Keywords

  • LIGHT-DEPENDENT MAGNETOSENSITIVITY
  • RADICAL-PAIR MECHANISM
  • MAGNETIC COMPASS
  • CHEMICAL MAGNETORECEPTION
  • CRYPTOCHROME
  • BIRDS
  • MODEL
  • ORIENTATION
  • SYSTEMS

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