K. Birgitta Whaley of the University of California, Berkeley explains
"What role does Quantum Mechanics play in Biology?"
The development of quantum mechanics in the early years of the twentieth century transformed both physics and chemistry, providing a new understanding of the microscopic behavior of atoms and molecules. Questions were also soon asked about the implications of quantum mechanics for biology. The first era of quantum biology focused on analysis of structure and stability of biological entities within the framework of quantum and statistical physics. A second era of quantum biology began with the development of lasers in the 1960s, ushering in a new generation of dynamical experiments that could probe the very short time scales relevant to atomic and molecular motions. These experiments have become increasingly sophisticated and led to a renaissance of interest in quantum dynamical effects in biology.
Today, advances in quantum sciences and nano-technology are driving the development of both novel probes of living cells and microscopic studies of biological phenomena that may involve non-trivial quantum effects such as entanglement. I shall describe studies of several biological phenomena showing evidence for dynamical quantum effects and then address the diverse questions that these studies raise for our understanding of the natural world that we inhabit.
200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1