Quantum Biology and Evolution

#1
I first want to make clear that this thread is intended to explore ideas, and not well-formed ideas at that. It's more about asking questions. So please do not take it to be that the ideas are presented as actual explanations.

In the emerging field of quantum biology, we are starting to find surprising quantum effects in living organisms. This is surprising since living organisms were usually thought to be "too hot and wet" from the physicists perspective, which should result in decoherence and suppression of significant quantum effects.

Currently the most accepted quantum effect is that of photosynthesis, where quantum effects can explain the efficiency of the process. Essentially, part of the efficiency is that a "quantum walk" occurs, in which electrons take all possible paths (potentially) and end up using the most efficient one.

Another effect, which is more controversial since the evidence isn't as strong, is that perhaps quantum effects are important for the sense of smell, rather than just chemical receptors. The idea is that replacing a hydrogen with a "heavy hydrogen" molecule can alter the perception of smell, even though chemically they are identical. It is presumed that this would be a result of different quantum resonance that occurs, and sensors in the olfactory system can discriminate these states.

So I was wondering if there could be implications here for certain questions in evolution, such as the following:

1. How did life begin? Statistically, it seems highly unlikely that life could begin through the traditional chemical interactions alone. Perhaps quantum effects, in some way similar to the quantum walk, could have occurred that dramatically increased the likelihood (or efficiency) of the interactions that led to the beginning of life.

2. How can traditional random mutations lead to the evolution we apparently see? Traditional random mutations are rarely beneficial, but could some sort of quantum effect allow there to be some way for mutations to be organized or coordinated across the DNA molecule, allowing for multiple mutations, which when coordinated, allow for potentially beneficial changes? Or perhaps not just the DNA, but some sort of quantum effect involving the epigenome as well, allowing for coordination of mutations and expression in an efficient manner? Perhaps mutations are only expressed once they can be coordinated with the epigenome and actually express themselves as a potentially beneficial change?

3. Could behavior be passed on to offspring through some sort of storage of quantum information in the DNA and epigenome? I am thinking about how the sense of smell may be perceived through essentially quantum resonance, and thinking about the mice study where the fear of a smell was passed on to offspring. Could there be some sort of storage of information at the quantum level of the DNA and epigenome, allowing important behavior to be passed on?

Hopefully these questions can open up a dialog on this topic. I personally think that quantum biology is going to be quite fruitful.
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#2
Regarding (3), I'm not sure why epigenetic information has to be quantum. There are various ways that DNA is tagged chemically that might do the trick.

Another area where quantum effects might be relevant is magnetoception.

~~ Paul
 
#5
I don't know about behavior specifically, but neither does anyone suggesting quantum information. No reason to jump to quantum information just because we don't know how it might work.

~~ Paul
Really? I'm trying to come up with possible ideas, which is why I started this thread. Why is quantum information not a valid possibility?
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#10
For behavior? I have a friend that is a researcher on genetics and she didn't seem to have any suggestions for how a behavior was passed on.
We are going around in a circle. I don't know how non-quantum epigenetics can control behavior, but neither do you know how quantum epigenetics can. So both possibilities remain.

~~ Paul
 
#13
Hopefully these questions can open up a dialog on this topic. I personally think that quantum biology is going to be quite fruitful.
I'm not a physicist but I like to think of myself as well read and your suggestions leave me totally puzzled.

How could quantum effects achieve any of the things you suggest? Even in principle? How would quantum effects encode behavior?
 
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#14
I'm not a physicist but I like to think of myself as well read and your suggestions leave me totally puzzled.

How could quantum effects achieve any of the things you suggest? Even in principle? How would quantum effects encode behavior?
I was thinking perhaps along the lines of some type of quantum information or maybe quantum resonance involving DNA and the epigenome? I'm really not sure, but if quantum resonance can in a way communicate information with smell perception, perhaps it could convey other information?
 
#15
I was thinking perhaps along the lines of some type of quantum information or maybe quantum resonance involving DNA and the epigenome? I'm really not sure, but if quantum resonance can in a way communicate information with smell perception, perhaps it could convey other information?
I don't think I understand. You are talking about what wikipedia calls the "vibration theory of olfaction"?
 
#19
That quantum resonance could possibly convey "macro" information of what I am smelling.
Sorry, I still don't get it. You need to explain it to me like I'm an idiot.
What do you mean by "quantum resonance", for starters?

ETA: I thought the "resonance" was about the vibrational modes of molecules that are identified in the vibration theory of smell. But I'm not sure.
 
#20
Sorry, I still don't get it. You need to explain it to me like I'm an idiot.
What do you mean by "quantum resonance", for starters?

ETA: I thought the "resonance" was about the vibrational modes of molecules that are identified in the vibration theory of smell. But I'm not sure.
Yes, that is correct. So a heavy hydrogen molecule will have a different resonance compared to a regular hydrogen molecule, and this supposedly can alter the perception of smell, even though chemically they are identical.
 
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