nLab
quantum biology

Contents

Contents

Idea

The field of quantum biology studies non-trivial effects of quantum mechanics in biological systems, typically in molecular biology.

To the extent that biology is based on chemistry it is ultimately based on quantum chemistry. But since biological systems are typically “warm” and “wet” relative to the cold and evacuated experimental setups in which quantum effects are usually seen and studied, quantum effects beyond those that account for the existence of molecules etc. in the first place have been thought and argued to be generally negligible in biology. But there is evidence that some key mechanisms in biology do rely on macroscopic quantum coherence/quantum superposition in a crucial way.

This includes notably photosynthesis? which has been argued to depend, if not qualitatively at least quantitatively, on macroscopic quantum entanglement/quantum superposition (SIFW 10).

Very speculative but prominently promoted by mathematician Roger Penrose, based on joint work with Stuart Hameroff, is the idea that macroscopic quantum supersoposition in microtubules? in neurons? is the source of the still mostly mysterious characteristic 40Hz? oscillations seen in brain EEG?s. (In fact Penrose goes much further and suggests that collapse of this superposition by quantum gravity effects is a source of non-computability in physics and also somehow the source of conciousness? in biology, see at orch OR for further pointers on this).

References

The suggestion that quantum biology is relevant for fundamentally understanding life goes back all the way to

Discussion of relevance of macroscopic quantum entabglement in photosynthesis includes

  • Mohan Sarovar, Akihito Ishizaki, Graham R. Fleming, ; K. Birgitta Whaley, Quantum entanglement in photosynthetic light-harvesting complexes Nature Physics 6 (6): 462–467 (2010) (arXiv:0905.3787)

Created on March 15, 2014 at 06:01:15. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.