Long before man discovered quantum mechanics, birds and other living creatures were using it to good advantage.

Quantum mechanical effects typically work at atomic scales.  Quantum entanglement is a phenomenon in which distinct objects share the same existence, regardless of the distance between them.  There’s potential there for quantum computing if the states of the two objects can be manipulated.

The ability to store and use quantum information is a challenge to modern engineers, reported Technology Review from MIT, but birds fly by it.  “Now Vladko Vedral at the University of Oxford and a few pals have calculated just how good nature could be at this game. The answer is very good: it looks as if nature has worked out how to preserve entanglement at body temperature over time scales that physicists can only dream about.”

How does a bird navigate with quantum computing?  In the back of a bird’s eye, molecular sensors can detect both photons and the earth’s magnetic field.    When a photon is absorbed, an entangled electron pair is formed, each electron briefly occupying different parts of the molecule.  The magnetic field flips the “spin” (a quantum property) of one of the electrons, so that when they recombine 100 microseconds later, that information can be sensed by the bird.  “The result is that the bird ‘sees’ the earth’s magnetic field as it flies,” the review said.

Maintaining the entangled state for 100 microseconds is “an extraordinary figure,” the article states.  The best human engineers have achieved is 80 microseconds.  Furthermore, the bird does it at body temperature.

The article referred to a previous Technology Review entry that explained how plants produce quantum entanglement in photosynthesis.  “Given that nature seems to have created the conditions in which entanglement thrives, the big question now is whether there are any natural systems that exploit it.”….

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