In the past, the idea that quantum effects would matter much in life forms was considered a “fringe idea” because the numbers would average out.
“The warmer the environment is, the more busy and noisy it is, the quicker these quantum effects disappear,” says University of Surrey theoretical physicist Jim Al-Khalili, who coauthored a 2014 book called Life on the Edge that brought so-called quantum biology to a lay audience. “So it’s almost ridiculous, counterintuitive, that they should persist inside cells. And yet, if they do—and there’s a lot of evidence suggesting that in certain phenomena they do—then life must be doing something special.”
Al-Khalili and Vedral are part of an expanding group of scientists now arguing that effects of the quantum world may be central to explaining some of biology’s greatest puzzles—from the efficiency of enzyme catalysis to avian navigation to human consciousness—and could even be subject to natural selection.
“The whole field is trying to prove a point,” says Chiara Marletto, a University of Oxford physicist who collaborated with Coles and Vedral on the bacteria-entanglement paper. “That is to say, not only does quantum theory apply to these [biological systems], but it’s possible to test whether these [systems] are harnessing quantum physics to perform their functions.”
… Most ideas in quantum biology are still driven more by theory than by experimental support, but a number of researchers are now trying to close the gap. t
Catherine Offord, “Quantum Biology May Help Solve Some of Life’s Greatest Mysteries” at The Scientist
Well, life is “doing something special” whether quantum mechanics drives much of biology or not.
Quantum mechanics can solve mysteries but only if they are mysteries of a certain sort. The temptation is to try to shoehorn a mystery – they mentioned human consciousness – into that mold in order that quantum theory might solve it. But we haven’t yet established the role of quantum processes in much more basic biology so they might want to wait on that fuzzier stuff.
Hat tip: Philip Cunningham
See also: From Philip Cunningham: Darwinian Materialism Vs Quantum Biology: Part I
Philip Cunningham: Darwinian Materialism Vs. Quantum Biology: Part II
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