Ever since the discovery of quantum physics exploded into our world, and made every simple concept more interesting (and complex), scientists have tried to seek the quantum state everywhere. Even so far as to merge quantum physics with biology.

But it might be easier for Pluto to regain its planetary status. Quantum experiments are done in extreme lab conditions (such as low temperatures), so as to avoid disturbances. This is quite impossible for biological systems, which are a blend of changes happening every five seconds.

But that didn’t discourage Erwin Schrodinger from trying to (unsuccessfully) explain genetic inheritance in terms of “quantum biology”. In the late 1960s though, American scientists made a breakthrough, in one of the most essential parts of a being- the enzymes. Enzymes are proteins that dramatically increase the rate of a biochemical reaction. Classical mechanics couldn’t entirely account for the sudden speed gain, and so, they turned to quantum phenomena such as tunnelling and entanglement.

Scientists still tried to find proof in other areas. In 2007, they obtained experimental evidence of quantum tunnelling in photosynthesis. This made the scientists wonder- if quantum biology was taking place right beneath their nose all this time, what else were they missing?

For a long time, the most fascinating study was on the European robin. These birds can sense Earth’s (extremely weak) magnetic field – sort of like they had a compass inside their brains – during their migrations. The birds have a protein called cryptochromes in their eyes which respond to light by creating a pair of particles that exist in quantum entanglement, sharing a connection that prevents one of them from changing without the other changing, too. As long as the pair isn’t disturbed, a magnetic field forces it to spend more time in one particular quantum state, creating a signal for the brain. This signal works like the magnetic field sensor.

Though these have been the biggest breakthroughs in the field of quantum biology as of 2019, scientists are optimistic that this emerging field holds substance. After all, who is to say that life is so simple?

Reference: https://thewire.in/the-sciences/what-is-quantum-biology

Raidha Anwar