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Qubits in brain can make it a quantum computer?

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From Jennifer Ouellette at Quanta:

The mere mention of “quantum consciousness” makes most physicists cringe, as the phrase seems to evoke the vague, insipid musings of a New Age guru. But if a new hypothesis proves to be correct, quantum effects might indeed play some role in human cognition. Matthew Fisher, a physicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, raised eyebrows late last year when he published a paper in Annals of Physics proposing that the nuclear spins of phosphorus atoms could serve as rudimentary “qubits” in the brain — which would essentially enable the brain to function like a quantum computer.

isher’s hypothesis faces the same daunting obstacle that has plagued microtubules: a phenomenon called quantum decoherence. To build an operating quantum computer, you need to connect qubits — quantum bits of information — in a process called entanglement. But entangled qubits exist in a fragile state. They must be carefully shielded from any noise in the surrounding environment. Just one photon bumping into your qubit would be enough to make the entire system “decohere,” destroying the entanglement and wiping out the quantum properties of the system. It’s challenging enough to do quantum processing in a carefully controlled laboratory environment, never mind the warm, wet, complicated mess that is human biology, where maintaining coherence for sufficiently long periods of time is well nigh impossible.

Over the past decade, however, growing evidence suggests that certain biological systems might employ quantum mechanics. In photosynthesis, for example, quantum effects help plants turn sunlight into fuel. Scientists have also proposed that migratory birds have a “quantum compass” enabling them to exploit Earth’s magnetic fields for navigation, or that the human sense of smell could be rooted in quantum mechanics.

Fisher’s notion of quantum processing in the brain broadly fits into this emerging field of quantum biology. Call it quantum neuroscience.

Others see no need to invoke quantum processing to explain brain function. “The evidence is building up that we can explain everything interesting about the mind in terms of interactions of neurons,” said Paul Thagard, a neurophilosopher at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, to New Scientist. (Thagard declined our request to comment further.) More.

In other words, no one knows much of anything about this. If we don’t understand the relationship between quantum mechanics and other laws of physics, how much insight do we likely gain by involving it in the naturalist nightmare of consciousness?

Theories of consciousness already need a telephone directory treatment.

See also: Mae-Wan Ho (1941–2016) on electrons and consciousness

What great physicists have said about immateriality and consciousness

Continued push for consciousness as fourth state of matter


Would we give up naturalism to solve the hard problem of consciousness?

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One Reply to “Qubits in brain can make it a quantum computer?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    That article has a fair bit of misinformation in it. First, Penrose and Hameroff, contrary to what the article implied, have been vindicated in their claim for microtubules:

    New Study Favors Quantum Mind – Quantum coherence in brain protein resembles plant photosynthesis – 18-Sep-2014
    Excerpt: Photosynthesis, the ubiquitous and essential mechanism by which plants produce food from sunlight, has been shown since 2006 to routinely utilize quantum coherence (quantum coherent superposition) at warm temperatures.,,,
    Back in the brain, microtubules are components of the cytoskeleton inside neurons, cylindrical lattice polymers of the protein ‘tubulin’.,,, now it appears quantum mechanisms eerily similar to those in photosynthesis may operate in tubulins within microtubules.
    In an article published September 17,, a team of scientists,, used computer simulation and theoretical quantum biophysics to analyze quantum coherence among tryptophan pi resonance rings in tubulin, the component protein in microtubules.,,,
    (They) mapped locations of the tryptophan pi electron resonance clouds in tubulin, and found them analogous to (the quantum coherent superposition of) chromophores in photosynthesis proteins.,,,
    Along with recent evidence for coherent megahertz vibrations in microtubules, and that anesthetics act to erase consciousness via microtubules, quantum brain biology will become increasingly important.,,

    Secondly, contrary to what was claimed in the article, it has now been established that quantum effects can be maintained for extraordinary amounts of time in biology for a wide range of biological molecules:

    Quantum entanglement in hot systems – 2011
    Excerpt: The authors remark that this reverses the previous orthodoxy, which held that quantum effects could not exist in biological systems because of the amount of noise in these systems.,,, Environmental noise here drives a persistent and cyclic generation of new entanglement.,,, In summary, the authors say that they have demonstrated that entanglement can recur even in a hot noisy environment. In biological systems this can be related to changes in the conformation of macromolecules.

    Life Uses Quantum Mechanics – September 25, 2012
    Excerpt: it looks as if nature has worked out how to preserve (quantum) entanglement at body temperature over time scales that physicists can only dream about.

    Forever quantum: physicists demonstrate everlasting quantum coherence – October 14, 2016 by Lisa Zyga
    Excerpt: Typically, quantum coherence lasts for only a fraction of a second before decoherence destroys the effect due to interactions between the quantum system and its surrounding environment.,,,
    “Quantum properties can be exploited for disruptive technologies but are typically very fragile,” Adesso told “Here we report an experiment which shows for the first time that quantum coherence in a large ensemble of nuclear spins can be naturally preserved (‘frozen’) under exposure to strong dephasing noise at room temperature, without external control, and for timescales as long as a second and beyond.”,,,
    In the new study, the researchers have experimentally observed this effect for the first time. The scientists demonstrated the mechanism in composite systems whose subsystems are all affected by decoherence, yet the overall composite system maintains its quantum coherence for as long as desired.,,,
    “The trick lies in the fact that local decoherence acts in a preferred direction, which is perpendicular to the one in which coherence is measured,” Adesso explained. “Consequently, the resulting quantum states are overall degraded by such noise, but their observed coherence remains unaffected during the dynamics if the initial conditions are suitably chosen.”
    – per physorg DOT com

    Quantum criticality in a wide range of important biomolecules
    Excerpt: “Most of the molecules taking part actively in biochemical processes are tuned exactly to the transition point and are critical conductors,” they say.
    That’s a discovery that is as important as it is unexpected. “These findings suggest an entirely new and universal mechanism of conductance in biology very different from the one used in electrical circuits.”
    The permutations of possible energy levels of biomolecules is huge so the possibility of finding even one that is in the quantum critical state by accident is mind-bogglingly small and, to all intents and purposes, impossible.,, of the order of 10^-50 of possible small biomolecules and even less for proteins,”,,,
    “what exactly is the advantage that criticality confers?”

    Coherent Intrachain energy migration at room temperature – Elisabetta Collini and Gregory Scholes – University of Toronto – Science, 323, (2009), pp. 369-73
    Excerpt: The authors conducted an experiment to observe quantum coherence dynamics in relation to energy transfer. The experiment, conducted at room temperature, examined chain conformations, such as those found in the proteins of living cells. Neighbouring molecules along the backbone of a protein chain were seen to have coherent energy transfer. Where this happens quantum decoherence (the underlying tendency to loss of coherence due to interaction with the environment) is able to be resisted, and the evolution of the system remains entangled as a single quantum state.

    Physicists Discover Quantum Law of Protein Folding – February 22, 2011
    Quantum mechanics finally explains why protein folding depends on temperature in such a strange way.
    Excerpt: First, a little background on protein folding. Proteins are long chains of amino acids that become biologically active only when they fold into specific, highly complex shapes. The puzzle is how proteins do this so quickly when they have so many possible configurations to choose from.
    To put this in perspective, a relatively small protein of only 100 amino acids can take some 10^100 different configurations. If it tried these shapes at the rate of 100 billion a second, it would take longer than the age of the universe to find the correct one. Just how these molecules do the job in nanoseconds, nobody knows.,,,
    Their astonishing result is that this quantum transition model fits the folding curves of 15 different proteins and even explains the difference in folding and unfolding rates of the same proteins.
    That’s a significant breakthrough. Luo and Lo’s equations amount to the first universal laws of protein folding. That’s the equivalent in biology to something like the thermodynamic laws in physics.

    Further notes:

    Jim Al-Khalili, at the 2:30 minute mark of the following video, states,

    “,,and Physicists and Chemists have had a long time to try and get use to it (Quantum Mechanics). Biologists, on the other hand have got off lightly in my view. They are very happy with their balls and sticks models of molecules. The balls are the atoms. The sticks are the bonds between the atoms. And when they can’t build them physically in the lab nowadays they have very powerful computers that will simulate a huge molecule.,, It doesn’t really require much in the way of quantum mechanics in the way to explain it.”
    At the 6:52 minute mark of the video, Jim Al-Khalili goes on to state:
    “To paraphrase, (Erwin Schrödinger in his book “What Is Life”), he says at the molecular level living organisms have a certain order. A structure to them that’s very different from the random thermodynamic jostling of atoms and molecules in inanimate matter of the same complexity. In fact, living matter seems to behave in its order and its structure just like inanimate cooled down to near absolute zero. Where quantum effects play a very important role. There is something special about the structure, about the order, inside a living cell. So Schrodinger speculated that maybe quantum mechanics plays a role in life”.
    Jim Al-Khalili – Quantum biology – video

    Molecular Biology – 19th Century Materialism meets 21st Century Quantum Mechanics – video

    The implication of finding ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, quantum entanglement/information in molecular biology, on such a massive scale, is fairly and pleasantly obvious:

    LIFE AFTER DEATH: Shock claim of evidence showing consciousness may continue as a SOUL
    THE human conscious lives on after death, scientists have sensationally claimed. By Sean Martin – Sun, Nov 6, 2016
    Excerpt: Sir Roger states if a person temporarily dies, this quantum information is released from the microtubules and into the universe.
    However, if they are resuscitated the quantum information is channeled back into the microtubules and that is what sparks a near death experience.
    Sir Roger added: “If they’re not revived, and the patient dies, it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body, perhaps indefinitely, as a soul.”

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