New Study Involving "Schrodinger's Bacteria" Could Be Next Step in Quantum Biology

Tuesday, 30 October 2018 - 2:55PM
Physics
Tuesday, 30 October 2018 - 2:55PM
New Study Involving "Schrodinger's Bacteria" Could Be Next Step in Quantum Biology
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Composite from Pixabay
Recently, researchers at the University of Basque were able to model Darwinian evolution in simulated cells using a quantum computer, posing new questions about what role quantum mechanics may have in biology. Now, however, a new study from the University of Oxford may have taken a much, much bigger step toward answering those questions: based on their analysis of a 2016 experiment conducted by scientists at the University of Sheffield, we may have unknowingly created bacteria that became entangled with particles of light.

To be clear, the Oxford study didn't create the bacteria experiment, which was originally conducted to test for something completely different. The researchers at the University of Sheffield were looking to see if they could bounce light through photosynthetic green sulfur bacteria sandwiched between two mirrors and create a system where the bacteria were always absorbing and emitting the same particles of white light. The experiment was a success, but the researchers from the University of Oxford decided to take a closer look at the data.

Based on the energy signatures created by the experiment, the new study claims that the light particles not only interacted with the bacteria's photosynthetic molecules, they actually became entangled with them on a quantum level. This is a potentially major discovery, not only because it would represent one of the first instances of a biological organism demonstrating quantum effects, but because it may prove that green sulfur bacteria evolved to take advantage of quantum phenomena. Green sulfur bacteria live in the dark parts of the ocean, where photosynthesis is difficult, so if they display a special ability to interact with photons, it may point to an evolutionary adaptation.

According to Tristan Farrow, of Oxford University, the experiment may be a major step forward for quantum biology. "It certainly is key to demonstrating that we are some way toward the idea of a 'Schrödinger's bacterium,' if you will."
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