Do Weird Quantum Effects Hold the Key to Solving Biological Mysteries?

For a long time, the weird world of quantum effects was thought to reside only at the nanoscale level. However, as nuclear physicist Jim Al-Khalili points out in the video above, a new field of research - 'quantum biology', has begun to ask the question: do quantum effects also play a role inside the living cell?

And on investigating this question, scientists are finding that the answer appears to be 'yes'. For example:

Some years ago, the world of science was shocked when a paper was published showing experimental evidence that quantum coherence takes place inside bacteria, carrying out photosynthesis. The idea is that the photon, the particle of light, the sunlight, the quantum of light captured by a chlorophyll molecule, is then delivered to what's called the reaction center, where it can be turned into chemical energy. And in getting there, it doesn't just follow one route; it follows multiple pathways at once, to optimize the most efficient way of reaching the reaction center without dissipating as waste heat. Quantum coherence taking place inside a living cell. A remarkable idea, and yet evidence is growing almost weekly, with new papers coming out, confirming that this does indeed take place.

To explore these topics in more detail, see Jim Al-Khalili's book with Johnjoe McFadden, Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology.

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SeiZan's picture
Member since:
10 May 2008
Last activity:
1 year 47 weeks

"do quantum effects also play a role inside the living cell?" Of course! It's only people who haven't understood implications of modern physics that have this type of psuedoskepticism that everything is billiard balls and classical physics all the way until we get to surface and particle physics. Lots of neuroscience and biology skeptics in this camp, so glad to see the field slowly catching up.