On the edge

By november 28, 2016 Algemeen

Life is the most extraordinary phenomenon in the known universe; but how did it come to be? Even in an age of cloning and artificial biology, the remarkable truth remains: nobody has ever made anything living entirely out of dead material. Life remains the only way to make life. Are we still missing a vital ingredient in its creation?

Like Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene, which provided a new perspective on how evolution works, quantum biology alters our understanding of our world’s fundamental dynamics. Bringing together first-hand experience at the cutting edge of science reveals that the missing ingredient is quantum mechanics; the phenomena that lie at the heart of this most mysterious of sciences.  As Erwin Schrödinger pointed out more than sixty years ago life is different from the inorganic world because it is structured and orderly even at the molecular level. What these studies are showing, and that quantum biology brings to life in an engaging and accessible manner, is that living systems seem to be able to maintain quantum coherence in the warm, wet environment of living cells. These squishy, flexible structures would be expected to shatter the delicate arrangement that particles need to maintain their quantum behavior.

In addition to this homing ability of birds, other systems, photosynthesis and enzyme reactions, are given a compelling discussion in quantum biology. The evidence of these diverse findings strongly suggests that biological systems employ quantum phenomena at the heart of their macro behavior. This has huge implications for the study of large-scale quantum systems and their possible technological innovations. More importantly, in my mind and that of the present authors, it poses interesting questions for our understanding of life. A description of living systems must include this remarkable ability, where living systems retain a connection with the deeper quantum realm by harnessing thermodynamics – life literally exists on the edge of a thermodynamic storm.

The excitement of the explosive new field of quantum biology and its potentially revolutionary applications, while offering insights into the biggest puzzle of all: what is life?