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Phys Rev Lett. 2011 Jan 28;106(4):040503. Epub 2011 Jan 25.

Sustained quantum coherence and entanglement in the avian compass.

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Department of Materials, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.


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.

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