Quantum physics: Losing a grip on reality

Summaries of newsworthy papers include Geology: The big melts and Fossils: Tell it to the trees


This press release is copyright Nature.
VOL.446 NO.7138 DATED 19 APRIL 2007

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Quantum physics: Losing a grip on reality
Geology: The big melts
Fossils: Tell it to the trees

· Mention of papers to be published at the same time with the same embargo

· Geographical listing of authors

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[1] Quantum physics: Losing a grip on reality (pp 871-875; N&V)

It seems common sense that an object will retain its fundamental properties regardless of whether or not we are looking at it. But in the microscopic quantum world, everyday rules do not apply. Even our concept of reality may be challenged, according to a paper in this week's Nature.

Classical physics clings tightly to the notions of realism (where external reality exists independent of observation) and locality (where sufficiently distant objects cannot influence each other). Quantum experiments in which the properties of distant but entangled particles are linked seem hard to reconcile with such notions, making local realistic theories untenable.

Markus Aspelmeyer, Anton Zeilinger and colleagues developed an inequality that relaxes the assumption of locality, allowing a test of non-local realism. They studied correlations between pairs of entangled photons, and found that the correlations violate non-local realistic theories. The result suggests that giving up the concept of locality is not sufficient to be consistent with quantum experiments, unless certain intuitive features of realism are abandoned.


Markus Aspelmeyer (University of Vienna, Austria)

Please contact the author through:

Ursula Gerber (University of Vienna, Austria)

Tel: +43 1 4277 51205; E-mail: [email protected]

Alain Aspect (Institut d'Optique, Palaiseau, France) N&V author
Tel: +33 1 64 53 31 03; E-mail: [email protected]

[2] Geology: The big melts (pp 900-903; N&V)

The Earth’s continental crust was not formed gradually but in stages, punctuated by large, potentially global, melting events. A report in this week’s Nature analyses the helium isotopic ratios from ocean island basalts, which reveal several distinct episodes of crustal growth.

Most Earth scientists agree that the continental crust formed by a process of partial melting from the mantle, although the timing and details of this process has remained controversial. Stephen Parman studied the chemical fingerprint of continental crust formation in the isotopic composition of helium isotopes recorded in ocean island basalts. The volatility of helium isotopes means that they are not reintroduced into the mantle during subduction and the record of mantle depletion is thus preserved for helium, whereas most other isotopes are continually recycled by mantle convection, largely obscuring such a record.

Parman found that peaks in the occurrence of helium isotope ratios are globally consistent and correspond with the ages of what have been proposed to be continental growth pulses. He concludes that the ultimate cause of these large melting events is still unclear, but could be related to large releases of heat from the mantle.


Stephen Parman (University of Durham, UK)

E-mail: [email protected]

Please note that the author is travelling in the US but should be contactable by email and mobile: Tel: +1 302 588 7369

Don Porcelli (University of Oxford, UK) N&V author
Tel: +44 1865 282 121; E-mail: [email protected]

[3] Fossils: Tell it to the trees (pp 904-907; N&V)

A spectacular fossilized tree, described in a paper published in this week’s Nature, gives an unprecedented insight into the appearance of the world’s earliest forests.

William E. Stein and colleagues found their fossil tree in Schoharie County, New York. It stood at least eight metres high with fern-like branches, a long trunk and small anchoring roots. Its crown belongs to a previously known plant taxon, the cladoxylopsid Wattieza. But its trunk and base match a different group, named Eospermatopteris.

The evolution of trees was fundamental to the Earth’s terrestrial ecosystem. And until now, the earliest-known evidence of forests came from fossil tree stumps found in Gilboa, New York, that are about 385 million years old. The trees were designated Eospermatopteris but their aerial portions were missing. The new find sheds light on their possible full appearance.


William E. Stein (State University of New York, Binghamton, NY, USA)
Tel: +1 607 777 4391; E-mail: [email protected]

Albert Gnidica (Media Relations, New York State Museum, NY, USA)

Tel: +1 518 474 0068 or +1 518 474 8730; E-mail: [email protected]

Brigitte Meyer-Berthaud (CIRAD-CNRS, Montpellier, France) N&V author
Tel: +33 4 67 61 75 22; E-mail: [email protected]


[4] Anaphase initiation is regulated by antagonistic ubiquitination and deubiquitination activities (pp 876-881; N&V)

[5] Iron meteorite evidence for early formation and catastrophic disruption of protoplanets (pp 888-891)

[6] A quantum scattering interferometer (pp 892-895)

[7] Regioselective one-pot protection of carbohydrates (pp 896-899)

[8] Ubiquitination by the anaphase-promoting complex drives spindle checkpoint inactivation (pp 921-925)

[9] A stepwise mechanism for acetylcholine receptor channel gating (pp 930-933)


***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 18 April at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included it on this release to avoid multiple mailings it will not appear in print on 19 April, but at a later date.***

[10] Image statistics and the perception of surface qualities (N&V)

DOI: 10.1038/nature05724


The following list of places refers to the whereabouts of authors on the papers numbered in this release. For example, London: 4 - this means that on paper number four, there will be at least one author affiliated to an institute or company in London. The listing may be for an author's main affiliation, or for a place where they are working temporarily. Please see the PDF of the paper for full details.


Vienna: 1


Shanghai: 6


Atsugi: 10


Gdansk: 1


Hsinchu: 7

Taipei: 7


Cardiff: 3

Durham: 2



Berkeley: 4, 8


Honolulu: 5


Amerhurst: 5

Boston: 4, 8

Cambridge: 4, 10

Lexington: 6

New York

Albany: 3

Binghamton: 3

Buffalo: 9

Cold Spring Harbor: 4


University Park: 6


For North America and Canada

Katie McGoldrick, Nature Washington

Tel: +1 202 737 2355; E-mail: [email protected]

For Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan

Mika Nakano, Nature Tokyo

Tel: +81 3 3267 8751; E-mail: [email protected]

For the UK/Europe/other countries not listed above

Helen Jamison, Nature London

Tel: +44 20 7843 4658; E-mail: [email protected]

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Published: 18 Apr 2007

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