Philip Cunningham writes to note for us such moments in the literature:
Abstract: (open access) Why life persists at the edge of chaos is a question at the very heart of evolution. Here we show that molecules taking part in biochemical processes from small molecules to proteins are critical quantum mechanically. Electronic Hamiltonians of biomolecules are tuned exactly to the critical point of the metal-insulator transition separating the Anderson localized insulator phase from the conducting disordered metal phase. Using tools from Random Matrix Theory we confirm that the energy level statistics of these biomolecules show the universal transitional distribution of the metal-insulator critical point and the wave functions are multifractals in accordance with the theory of Anderson transitions. The findings point to the existence of a universal mechanism of charge transport in living matter. The revealed bio-conductor material is neither a metal nor an insulator but a new quantum critical material which can exist only in highly evolved systems and has unique material properties. – Gábor Vattay et al., “Quantum Criticality at the Origin of Life,” (2015) pdf
“molecules taking part in biochemical processes from small molecules to proteins are critical quantum mechanically” … The revealed bio-conductor material is neither a metal nor an insulator but a new quantum critical material which can exist only in highly evolved systems and has unique material properties.” If so, might this not be evidence for fine-tuning for life?
Abstract: We give a new explanation for why some biological systems can stay quantum coherent for a long time at room temperature, one of the fundamental puzzles of quantum biology. We show that systems with the right level of complexity between chaos and regularity can increase their coherence time by orders of magnitude. Systems near Critical Quantum Chaos or Metal-Insulator Transition (MIT) can have long coherence times and coherent transport at the same time. The new theory tested in a realistic light harvesting system model can reproduce the scaling of critical fluctuations reported in recent experiments. Scaling of return probability in the FMO light harvesting complex shows the signs of universal return probability decay observed at critical MIT. The results may open up new possibilities to design low loss energy and information transport systems in this Poised Realm hovering reversibly between quantum coherence and classicality. (open access) – Gábor Vattay, Stuart Kauffman, and Samuli Niiranen, “Quantum Biology on the Edge of Quantum Chaos,” PLOS One 9, no. 3 (2014)
“We show that systems with the right level of complexity between chaos and regularity can increase their coherence time by orders of magnitude. Systems near Critical Quantum Chaos or Metal-Insulator Transition (MIT) can have long coherence times and coherent transport at the same time.” Again, if so, might this not be evidence for fine-tuning for life?
But it’s more complicated than that: Can the answer to the vast levels of organization even be quantum critical proteins?: From Stuart Lindsay, Professor of Physics and Chemistry at Arizona State University, at Inference Review,
The difficulty with this proposal lies in its improbability. Only an infinitesimal density of random states exists near the critical point. Nonetheless, the distinctive distributions of energy-level spacings can be used as a simple tool to probe the state of the system.
In other words, they are easier to find and study there but there are not nearly enough of them to make the difference needed.
Gábor Vattay et al. recently examined a number of proteins and conducting and insulating polymers.14 The distribution for the insulators and conductors were as expected, but the functional proteins all fell on the quantum-critical distribution. Such a result cannot be a consequence of chance.
It could only have come about as the result of evolutionary pressure.
But what is exerting the pressure to organize?
What of quantum criticality? Vattay et al. carried out electronic structure calculations for the very large protein used in our work. They found that the distribution of energy-level spacings fell on exactly the quantum-critical distribution, implying that this protein is also quantum critical. There is no obvious evolutionary reason why a protein should evolve toward a quantum-critical state, and there is no chance at all that the state could occur randomly. (2018) More.
Also, from the Physics ArXiv blog
One of the great puzzles of biology is how the molecular machinery of life is so finely coordinated. Even the simplest cells are complex three dimensional biochemical factories in which a dazzling array of machines fill the shop floor.
Today, Stuart Kauffmann at the University of Calgary in Canada and a few pals provide some extraordinary new insight into how all this might happen. These show that most biomolecules are quantum critical conductors; their electronic properties are precisely tuned to the transition point between a metal and an insulator.
In other words, biomolecules belong to an entirely new class of conductor that is not bound by the ordinary rules of electron transport, a discovery that has profound implications for our understanding of the nature of life and its origin. (2015 )More.
What is killing Darwinism is really that we are seeing a fascinating new world of biology and it is just not the textbook Darwinism defended in so much popular media. And whatever it turns out to be, it will never be that.
See also: At New York Times: Darwin skeptic Carl Woese “effectively founded a new branch of science” In fairness, many of us DID sense that the people splintering lecterns in favor of Darwin’s Tree of Life were more certain than the facts would turn out to warrant. Every so often, a new poll would announce, to general hand-wringing, that much of the public doesn’t “believe in” evolution. Most of us didn’t fight with anybody about it, we just waited… A world where horizontal gene transfer is a “thing,” (and epigenetics as well) actually makes a lot more sense from experience than the “selfish gene” world.