Sunday, August 2, 2015

Entangling life - "Quantum weirdness helps explain how plants make food, animals migrate and humans think"

I have long been interested in quantum biology, biological functioning demonstrating quantum physics. In my book Everything is the Way there is a chapter "Entangling Not-Knowing" which explores this a bit from the perspective of Zen life practice.

I was glad to see a new book Life on the Edge by Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili, a biologist and physicist respectively, explore and clarify some of what we now know of quantum biology. I have not obtained the book as of yet so will reserve further comments about the book itself. Reviews are interesting.

Here are some excerpts from a review which show the depth and breadth of the book:

“ 'Pre-quantum' physics—the laws discovered by Isaac Newton—is often referred to as classical physics. “Most biologists,” the authors point out, “still believe that the classical laws are sufficient” to explain photosynthesis, “with light acting like some kind of golf club able to whack the oxygen golf ball out of the carbon dioxide molecule.” But, like Einstein contemplating spooky action at a distance, they are wrong. The key step in the process involves electrons “hopping” from one molecule to another. Some extraordinary experiments described in this book have revealed that this energy is flowing through the plant by, in effect, following several routes simultaneously, thanks to a phenomenon known as coherence. This is a purely quantum effect.

This discovery is particularly exciting because quantum coherence is a concept that many of the physicists working on the development of “quantum computers” have incorporated into their designs. Not for the first time, nature got there before the scientists and so far does a better job of “computing” the most efficient way to get energy from A to B. Not that the quantum computer scientists were quick to embrace this idea: Messrs. McFadden and Al-Khalili quote one of them describing his colleagues’ immediate reaction when they saw a New York Times article suggesting that plants might operate as quantum computers: “It’s like, ‘Oh my God, that’s the most crackpot thing I’ve heard in my life.’ ” But they have since changed their tune."

 As to our life and 'consciousness', "Building on ideas proposed by the Oxford physicist Roger Penrose, Messrs. McFadden and Al-Khalili look at the quantum chemistry that just might be involved in conscious thought. “The scheme,” they say, “is certainly speculative, but it does at least provide a plausible link between the quantum and classical realms in the brain.” After all, if a plant can operate like a quantum computer in carrying out the process of photosynthesis, why couldn’t a human brain act as a quantum computer in carrying out the processes of thought? Given nature’s ability to make use of whatever is available, it would be surprising if it did not."

For the full review see: