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Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Quantum Mechanics and Genetics Linked Together?

By March 31, 2009

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MIT quantum computer scientist Seth Lloyd makes a bold (if somewhat unfocused) presentation in Nature Physics: that the intellectual atmosphere that led to the viewpoint of inherited traits as discrete units (genes) is the same atmosphere that gave rise to the quantum physics viewpoint of energy in discrete units.

Beyond that, Lloyd discusses how the information processing aspect of quantum mechanics is echoed, in some sense, in the way genes are expressed. Similarly, quantum randomness is manifested in random mutations. But these relationships, while having some conceptual validity, aren't tangible really. Quantum physics doesn't manifest at the level of DNA molecules, so the relationship isn't necessarily causative.

Still, to Lloyd and others who explore quantum information theory, all of the universe is a result of the processing of quantum information, so it's a natural extension to view the genetic transmission of information in a similar way.

To support this viewpoint, Lloyd points out how some biological structures seem to take advantage of quantum properties. The behavior of the whole system is influenced by the quantum mechanical properties of parts of the system.

The problem with the whole article is that it skirts dangerously around the edges of the anthropic principle, which is often either a useless truism or a springboard for unscientific speculations. He proposes a possible spawning of universes, which in turn "evolve" the ability to spawn life in our own universe ... which may be, as Lloyd points out, is connected (in this universe at least) to the behavior of quantum systems.

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Comments

April 1, 2009 at 3:06 am
(1) rrtucci says:

Kudos to Prof Seth Lloyd. Not Bad, Seth!

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