Reply to post: Meh

Danish lit star Helle Helle, Marianne Faithfull and Jim Al-Khalili on Quantum Biology

Werner McGoole

Meh

I'm not sure it's accurate to say this is the first layman's book on quantum biology. McFadden's earlier book "Quantum Evolution" surely counts (there may be others). That book was a rather fanciful and unscientific exposition, although interesting.

But what's all the fuss about quantum mechanics and biology? Self evidently QM influences biology. Without it atoms and molecules wouldn't be stable (the entire world wouldn't exist). The quantum de-localisation of electrons makes much of chemistry (hence biology) possible. Of course reaction pathways follow the routes that QM allows even when they're classically forbidden: QM was invented to explain the behaviour of atoms after all.

What's more contentious is whether the more "spooky" quantum effects can survive and be observed at a macroscopic scale. McFadden's first book was full of such claims, but little of it convinced me. As this subject advances, it seems to be leaving these wilder claims behind and focusing on more mundane aspects of QM that amount to - well, little more than normal chemistry to be honest. If the macroscopic consequences of QM in biology are so remarkable, then so, also are other simple facts, like the existence of solids and liquids, electrical conductivity and countless other phenomena we take for granted.

Penrose's conjecture certainly retains the essence of "spooky quantum action" and deserves more study than it's been getting, but apart from that, I say "meh" to quantum biology.

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