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Living Quantum Mechanical Biological Machines

Algae Molecule Masters Quantum Mechanics

by Brian Thomas, M.S.
2/17/2010

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The weird world of quantum physics appears to have been mastered by protein molecules, according to a new study. Researchers have demonstrated that certain proteins can manipulate light waves to their advantage. These kinds of observations are a conundrum for evolution, which can’t explain such advanced biological capabilities.

Quantum mechanics represents mankind’s current approximation of the behavior of matter on the atomic and subatomic level. Experiments have shown that light, as well as electrons, can travel along two wave-like paths at the same time and yet arrive at the same place. In quantum-speak, these paths are said to exist in “coherence.”

Scientists have measured the control of light in coherence by a protein that is involved in photosynthesis. Certain proteins with molecular “antennae” are structured to capture and transfer light energy. When combined with a host of nearby―as well as faraway―protein machines, they use this energy to build the chemicals on which all other living things depend.

But remarkably, one particular type of algae is able to perform this function in low lighting. Most other plants shut down photosynthesis for the night, while “cryptophytes” continue to harvest light. According to a paper published in Nature, researchers discovered that the light-harvesting proteins used by the algae are structured differently from those of other plants and that their particular configuration can pick up low-light energy and hold it in coherence. They called these plants “coherently wired.”1

In order for these algae to harvest light in low-light conditions, their method of photosynthesis must be much more efficient than that of other plants. The “coherent” wiring of this protein enables “quantum effects [to] facilitate the efficient light-harvesting by cryptophyte algae.”1 The ingenious configuration that allows this protein to manipulate light adds to the list of similar finds that have been controversial because of their stunningly skillful construction. – More here.

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