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Reverse engineering a quantum compass

Physicists propose a way to probe birds' magnetic-sensing organs

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.

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