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  7:30 pm, Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Different venue! Hennings Building, Room 200

Quantum Computing and Animal Navigation

Klaus Schulten

University of Illinois, Urbana

Quantum computing is all the rage nowadays. But this type of computing may have been discovered and used by living cells billion of years ago. Nowadays migratory birds use a protein, Cryptochrome, which absorbs weak blue light to produce two quantum-entangled electrons in the protein, which by monitoring the earth's magnetic field, allows birds to navigate even in bad weather and wind conditions. The lecture tells the story of this discovery, starting with chemical test tube experiments and ending in the demonstration that the navigational compass is in the eyes and can be affected by radio antennas. The story involves theoretical physicists who got their first paper rejected as "garbage", million dollar laser experiments by physical chemists to measure the entangled electrons, and ornithologists who try to 'interrogate' the birds themselves. This work opens up the awesome possibility that room-temperature quantum mechanics may be crucial in many biological systems.

To learn more please visit his webpage.

Additional resources for this talk: slides, video.