Monday, January 28, 2013

Quantum Biology

Download the BBC podcast Discovery: Quantum Biology.

Below are excerpts from the BBC News introduction to the highly interesting subject.
Disappearing in one place and reappearing in another. Being in two places at once. Communicating information seemingly faster than the speed of light.

This kind of weird behaviour is commonplace in dark, still laboratories studying the branch of physics called quantum mechanics, but what might it have to do with fresh flowers, migrating birds, and the smell of rotten eggs?

Welcome to the frontier of what is called quantum biology.

It is still a tentative, even speculative discipline, but what scientists are learning from it might just spark revolutions in the development of new drugs, computers and perfumes - or even help in the fight against cancer.

A paper published in Plos One this week shows that people can tell the difference between two molecules of identical shape but with different vibrations, suggesting that shape is not the only thing at work.

Jim Al-Khalili of the University of Surrey is investigating whether tunnelling occurs during mutations to our DNA - a question that may be relevant to the evolution of life itself, or cancer research.

He told the BBC: "If quantum tunnelling is an important mechanism in mutations, is quantum mechanics going to somehow answer some of the questions about how a cell becomes cancerous?

"And suddenly you think, 'Wow!' Quantum mechanics is not just a crazy side issue or a fringe field where some people are looking at some cranky ideas. If it really might help answer some of the very big questions in science, then it's hugely important."

Jason Palmer and Alex Mansfield BBC News and BBC Radio Science units

Read the entire article BBC 28 January 2013

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