Thursday, December 18, 2014

Quantum Biology

In the second programme of his two-part series "The Secrets of Quantum Physics" on  BBC 4, Jim Al-Khalili dealt with several interesting examples from biology, showing how modern interpretations have become intrinsically based on principles from quantum mechanics.

For example he explained how the navigation of the robin is seemingly based on the quantum entanglement, or what Einstein famously referred to as "spooky action at a distance". This enables the robin to detect minute changes with respect to the Earth's magnetic field associated with distinctive types of quantum entanglement associated with paired electrons.

He then went on to explain how the modern explanation of smell relates - in a manner akin to sound - to the vibrations of the chemical bonds holding molecules together. The previous explanation based on the structure of component molecules neatly locking into appropriate sense receptor molecules (associated with a characteristic scent) could not explain for example why the smell of marzipan and cyanide is so similar (despite marked variations in their molecular structures). However the vibrations of the molecular bonds in each case show much greater similarity!

He then went on to explain, with respect to the transformation of a tadpole into a frog, how the process of metamorphosis in nature is greatly assisted by the principle of quantum tunneling where enzymes can easily penetrate rigid barriers through assuming "ghostly" wave patterns.

With respect to the all-important principle of photosynthesis through sunlight in nature, he went on to show how the efficient transfer of energy within cells owes much to the "uncertainty principle".

He also speculated on how quantum effects may be directly relevant to the process of evolution, indicating more precisely how mutations with respect to genetic characteristics take place.

In one way none of this should really be so surprising.

If we accept that physical reality at its minute subatomic levels is governed by quantum mechanical interactions, then this should ultimately apply at a deeper level of investigation to all biological processes.

This strongly suggests to me that many of the current accepted explanations represent in the main "half truths" that inevitably will raise fundamental questions at a deeper level of investigation.

Indeed I have long felt this applies to the Darwinian theory of evolution, which always struck me as a somewhat tautological explanation, concealing many difficulties. It only appears convincing within the reduced limits of present scientific interpretation, as this formally excludes the holistic aspect of meaning. However a deeper philosophical understanding of the holistic implications of quantum interactions, which necessarily underlie all evolutionary processes, will I believe ultimately lead to a far more nuanced appreciation.

Looking at these issues in more general terms, what is currently deemed as scientifically acceptable itself reflects but a particular point in time with respect to its on-going evolution.

Before the rise of modern science, quantitative were not properly distinguished from qualitative type considerations (often expressed through mythological religious type beliefs).

One could therefore accept that just as in psychological terms, mature understanding requires overcoming the magical and mythical beliefs associated with infant development, that likewise this is true of science. Therefore the sharp differentiation of rational from spiritual type considerations, which typifies the last 300 year so of science has proved both a welcome and necessary development,

And this has led to unparalleled progress with respect to quantitative type understanding of our universe.

However I would very much see this as representing but a stage of scientific development which in many ways is now coming face to face with its inevitable limitations.

Despite the great success of quantum physics, the deeper philosophical implications of its rationale have not been adequately faced by the scientific community.

In fact I have long been convinced that quantum mechanics now directly requires the re-inclusion of the qualitative holistic aspect (that science has so vigilantly attempted to exclude from the fold).

In the last blog I mentioned for example that quantum entanglement entails the simultaneous interdependent communication of particles that inherently is of a qualitative rather than a quantitative nature.

So now as well as the accepted analytic aspect of science, we need once again to recognise the neglected holistic aspect - not through mythological religious symbols of the past - but rather through an extension of the very meaning of scientific symbols (with twin interacting aspects of interpretation).

Indeed at an even more fundamental level this is likewise through of Mathematics.

In my own investigations of the Riemann Hypothesis, I have come to realise that the number system, which underlines all science, is itself strictly meaningless in the absence of an explicit qualitative dimension.  Indeed at its very core, the number system is of a dynamically interacting synchronistic nature (entailing the bi-directional complementarity of both the primes and natural numbers).

And this same synchronicity which is a central feature of the number system is likewise a central feature of physics and biology and indeed of all evolution.

However we will never be able to properly grasp this key point while remaining rigidly committed to the limited analytic confines of conventional science.

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