Is Life Quantum Mechanical? The dawn of quantum biology Talk by Professor Jim Al Khalili FRS

Is Life Quantum Mechanical? The dawn of quantum biology

This talk will be given by Professor Jim Al Khalili FRS, who will receive an Honorary Degree at this month’s graduation ceremony.

Physicists and chemists are accustomed to dealing with quantum mechanics, but biologists have thus far got away without having to worry about this strange yet powerful theory of the subatomic world. However, times are changing. There is now solid evidence that enzymes, those metabolic workhorses that drive much of the action in our cells, use the process known as quantum tunnelling to accelerate chemical reactions. And over the past few years it has emerged that plants use quantum coherence – sending lumps of energy in many directions at once – to calculate the most efficient route for sunlight to get to their photosynthetic cells. More intriguingly, it appears that some birds might use quantum entanglement – what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance” – to ‘see’ the Earth’s magnetic field for navigation.

This lecture introduces the exciting new field of Quantum Biology. But how can fragile quantum mechanical phenomena previously thought to be confined to highly rarefied laboratory environments at temperatures close to absolute zero manage to survive in the wet, warm biological world?

Location: Lecture Theatre A, School of Physics & Astronomy

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