Department of !

by on February 10, 2010 at 2:58 am in Science | Permalink

Yesterday I read this:

While physicists struggle to get quantum computers to function at cryogenic temperatures, other researchers are saying that humble algae and bacteria may have been performing quantum calculations at life-friendly temperatures for billions of years.

The evidence comes from a study of how energy travels across the light-harvesting molecules involved in photosynthesis. The work has culminated this week in the extraordinary announcement that these molecules in a marine alga may exploit quantum processes at room temperature to transfer energy without loss. Physicists had previously ruled out quantum processes, arguing that they could not persist for long enough at such temperatures to achieve anything useful.

Roger Penrose is now on related points looking more credible.

sean February 10, 2010 at 3:59 am

Did you wake up at 2:45 am with this sudden urge?

Ted February 10, 2010 at 4:34 am

Amazing! Evolution has created electronic devices superior than what we can currently design. In addition to quantum computing, photosynthesis has shown physicists how well excitons can be manipulated. Excitons have interesting applications to computers and photovoltaics as well.

Mike Huben February 10, 2010 at 6:22 am

Penrose does not look any more credible.

http://www.scottaaronson.com/democritus/lec10.5.html

Michael F. Martin February 10, 2010 at 1:16 pm

anon,

Thanks for explaining your reasoning. I understand why you say Penrose _gains_ no credibility. But he certainly doesn’t lose it either based on that reasoning.

Anonymous February 10, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I didn’t know of the new work by Scholes’s group (looks fantastic so far), but the quantum coherence has been known for the FMO photosynthetic complex by Greg Engel (now a new prof at Chicago investigating this) and the Fleming group (in Berkeley) since a few years ago.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature05678

Ah, that Tegmark paper was fun. Don’t remember the details, but I do recall that he estimated requiring 10^6 ions in coherence in order to have a quantum coherent neuron firing state. Probably quite a different situation than keeping one exciton coherent. Plus, the structure of the FMO complex is suggestive of an isolating pocket…but no solid answers yet on how it works.

Brett February 10, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Roger Penrose is now on related points looking more credible.

Don’t feed the pseudo-philosophical troll.

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