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Is life quantum mechanical?

Jim Al-Khalili

From: The 2013 IET Kelvin Lecture, London, UK

18 April 2013  News

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Over the past few years it has emerged that plants use a form of quantum computing to calculate how best to direct energy through their photosynthetic apparatus. Scientists have also discovered that birds, insects and other animals appear to use entanglement (what Einstein called "spooky action at a distance" to detect the earth's magnetic field).
And there is solid evidence that enzymes, those metabolic workhorses that drive much of the action in our cells, use the process known as quantum tunneling to accelerate chemical reactions. It may even have a say in mutations in DNA.
This lecture introduces the speculative yet exciting new field of Quantum Biology". Jim Al-Khalili is one of a growing number of physicists struggling to understand how fragile quantum mechanical phenomena previously thought to be confined to highly rarefied laboratory systems at temperatures close to absolute zero, manage to survive in the wet, warm biological world.

About the speaker

Jim Al-Khalili is a professor of physics, author and broadcaster based at the University of Surrey where he currently teaches and also holds a chair in public engagement in science. He received his PhD in nuclear physics in 1989 and remains active in research in theoretical physics. He is active as a science communicator and has written a number of popular science and history of science books, between them translated into over twenty languages. His latest is Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics. Jim is a regular presenter of TV science documentaries, including the Bafta nominated Chemistry: A Volatile History and, most recently, Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity and Order and Disorder, both for BBC4. He also presents the weekly BBC Radio 4 programme, The Life Scientific. He provides expert advice for bodies such as the Royal Society, the British Council and the Department for Education. He is also active in public life and is a strong advocate for rationalism and secularism and has recently taken over as president of the British Humanist Association. He is a recipient of the Royal Society Michael Faraday medal and the Institute of Physics Kelvin Medal.
He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2008.

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