Birds Use Quantum Mechanics to See Magnetic Fields, New Research Suggests | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Birds Use Quantum Mechanics to See Magnetic Fields, New Research Suggests

Many birds have a sixth sense. No, not seeing dead people: They detect Earth’s magnetic field, an ability that allows them to return to the same sites, year after year, during seasonal migration. Now, scientists have come closer to identifying the mechanism that our feathery friends use to feel Earth’s magnetic field—and it involves quantum mechanics in their eyes.

A research team, led by scientists from the University of Oldenburg in Germany and Oxford University, studied a protein known as cryptochrome-4, found in birds’ retinas. For 20 years, experts hypothesized that this protein served as birds’ magnetic sensor, a microscopic compass that points the bird in a particular direction. The protein participates in chemical reactions that produce varying quantities of new molecules that depend on the direction of Earth’s magnetic field. A bird’s neurons ultimately respond to the amount of these molecules to reorient the animal. “But no one could confirm or verify this in the lab,” said biologist Jingjing Xu of the University of Oldenburg in Germany.

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