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Quantum Coherence Found Fueling Photosynthesis

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the spooky-energy dept.

Science 135

Gaygirlie writes "Ars Technica has posted an interesting article about new findings regarding quantum physics and photosynthesis. Their excerpt for the article: 'Physicists have found the strongest evidence yet of quantum effects fueling photosynthesis. Multiple experiments in recent years have suggested as much, but it has been hard to be sure. Quantum effects were clearly present in the light-harvesting antenna proteins of plant cells, but their precise role in processing incoming photons remained unclear.' Here's a little background info for those unaware of what coherence and quantum coherence are."

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Those helpful links (5, Insightful)

LucidBeast (601749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38294934)

helped me, yet again, realize how little I understand quantum physics.

Re:Those helpful links (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38295110)

"If you think you understand quantum physics, then clearly you don't."

-Paraphrased Richard Feynman quote

Re:Those helpful links (3, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295688)

"If you think you understand quantum physics, then clearly you don't." -Paraphrased Richard Feynman quote

I don't think I understand it, so does that mean I do?

As to TFA, it led me to think that this could lead to more powerful and cheaper solar cells. This is an exciting time to be alive. I can see a future without those damned ugly poles and wires in the alley behind my house, with a beautiful solar paneled roof and an even more beautiful lack of an electric bill. Who knows watt will come of investigation into quantum mechanics?

(yes, that "typo" was a deliberate pun)

Re:Those helpful links (4, Funny)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295764)

Your solar panels will be green, and smell vaguely like broccoli, with little graphene wires. You may have to water them.

Re:Those helpful links (1)

atisss (1661313) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295870)

I can see a future without those damn ugly trees and plants in the alley behind my house, with those beautiful solar paneled roof and an even more beautiful lack of an electric bill.

Re:Those helpful links (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296348)

The real future is when we dyson sphere [wikipedia.org] the sun and teleport the energy directly to devices that need it using quantum entanglement. Near-limitless wireless energy anywhere in the universe!



Spoilers: It may be awhile.

Re:Those helpful links (2)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 2 years ago | (#38299598)

While I know enough to know that I don't really understand squat quantum physics, I'm pretty confident in saying that quantum teleportation is not actually an energy transport mechanism. It can't even teleport classical information.

Re:Those helpful links (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38299680)

I don't think we've proven any of that for sure yet. Absolutely what I'm talking about is beyond theoretical, but given infinite scientific advancement who is to say what is or is not physically possible? ^_^

I never mentioned quantum teleportation. Just some process whereby using quantum mechanical science we might achieve energy transfer. I think I read a paper on the concept awhile ago... anyways.

Re:Those helpful links (5, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295914)

Feynman was talking about understanding the "why" sort of questions of quantum mechanics. It is possible to completely understand quantum mechanics as it currently exists. After all, humans created it. Feynman himself was responsible, along with a handful of others, for buttoning up QED into the most complete and perfect physical theory we have as of yet. When he said "nobody understands this stuff," he meant that nobody understands WHY the world is this way. We understand perfectly well how to use the rules to predict the answer.

Neither was he referring to the various "strange" things that sometimes occur at quantum scales. There is nothing spooky in quantum mechanics, it's all sitting right there in the equations. Equations which were essentially guessed at by men with intuitions the size of Mount Everest, and these guesses were then proven to be correct at ever increasing levels of accuracy. So obviously people are "getting it" on some level. But the deeper sort of "why" questions Feynman relegated to philosophers, and he ridiculed those who wasted their time asking them.

Re:Those helpful links (2, Insightful)

nessus42 (230320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296444)

There is nothing spooky in quantum mechanics

Sure there is. Or there very well might be. Nobody understands the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics because it is ill-defined. If on the other hand, the correct interpretation of quantum mechanics is the Many Worlds/Everett Interpretation, then the entire universe is in an incredibly complex macroscopic superposition of states all the the time, amounting to a staggeringly large number parallel worlds. Most people will claim that this is "spooky". In fact, the spookiness of it, is typically the only reason given to reject the Everett Interpretation.

Also, if the Everett Interpretation is correct, no one understands why we observe quantum coin flips that are anything other than 50/50.

|>ouglas

Re:Those helpful links (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38298994)

with observation t->0, the chance is 50/50, with a smaller t, it becomes a mere approximation.

Re:Those helpful links (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38296534)

He wasn't ridiculing those who asked such questions; far from it.

He was ridiculing those who think they have the answer or who endlessly debate the merits of one or another interpretation.

Re:Those helpful links (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#38302006)

If you don't find the many worlds hypothesis, or quantum entanglement somewhat more than spooky, you must have no imagination. Simply saying that because the equations work there's nothing else to think about is somewhat trite.

Re:Those helpful links (4, Funny)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295278)

I'm at that awful stage where I laugh at this article's analogies, yet can't really understand the paper.

Re:Those helpful links (2)

morgaen (1896818) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298240)

Try to absorb it in discreet packets.

Re:Those helpful links (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38299398)

"Discreet"? Idiot.

Re:Those helpful links (3, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295294)

Are you saying they weren't coherent?

Re:Those helpful links (3, Funny)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295958)

That would be a sine his understanding was not in phase with the article.

Re:Those helpful links (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296334)

It sure doesn't help that he just linked to wikipedia on coherence and quantum coherence.
At that point, why not just let me google that for you [lmgtfy.com] ? Does this really need inclusion? Its almost insulting.

Seriously guys if somebody doesn't understand quantum physics reading the wiki page isn't going to do it.

Re:Those helpful links (3, Informative)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297648)

Seriously guys if somebody doesn't understand quantum physics reading the wiki page isn't going to do it.

More than that, the first paragraph of the linked explanation is misleading, and the rest essentially requires an understanding of quite a bit of quantum mechanics to have a chance of following it. I have difficulty imagining somehow who actually understood the concepts involved linking such a poor explanation.

Quantum coherence has to do with multiple particles. If most of the particles are in roughly the same (quantum) state, the system is called coherent. Otherwise, it is not coherent. To give an (oversimplified) example, take a bunch of electrons. Through a clever experiment, we may measure an individual electron's "spin", and the result will either be "up" or "down"--an understanding of spin is immaterial here; feel free to replace "spin" with "mood" and "up"/"down" with "happy"/"sad" if it scares you. The unintuitive part of quantum mechanics is that even if we performed the experiment twice with two indistinguishable electrons, our experiment may well come out differently. The crucial thing, though, is that each outcome has a fixed probability of occurring. Suppose, then, that we've prepared 100 electrons in such a way that if we perform our spin experiment, 30% of the time the electron will have spin up, and 70% of the time it will have spin down. An electron's quantum state for this experiment is (sweeping wavefunctions under the rug...) given by the probability of each outcome. Each of our 100 electrons has the same quantum state as the others, so the system is called (perfectly) coherent. If, however, we prepared 50 of the electrons to come out with the above probabilities and the remaining 50 electrons to come out with 100% spin up, the system is not coherent.

(Disclaimer: I am not a physicist, but rather a mathematician with some interest in quantum physics. Please feel free to correct or supplement the above.)

Re:Those helpful links (3, Informative)

harryjohnston (1118069) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298520)

No, quantum coherence is not about the electrons all having the same quantum state as one another; it's about the system as a whole having a single quantum state.

An example of a coherent system would be one in which the electrons all have the same spin; say a 50% chance that they are all up and a 50% chance that they are all down, but zero chance that some are up and some are down. Another example would be a 50% chance that the odd-numbered electrons are up and the even-numbered onees down, a 50% chance they're the other way around.

Re:Those helpful links (2)

Jessified (1150003) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297326)

Yes, I agree. I can't help but feel like I've been outsmarted by a plant.

Surprise? (4, Insightful)

danhuby (759002) | more than 2 years ago | (#38294940)

If quantum effects are real (as they demonstrably are), should it be a surprise that evolution made use of them?

Re:Surprise? (3, Insightful)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 2 years ago | (#38294990)

Anything emitting or absorbing light has to be modeled using quantum mechanics.

Re:Surprise? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38295084)

Anything emitting or absorbing light has to be modeled using quantum mechanics.

Isn't it already? Photoelectric effect is result of quantization of light. Einstein got a Nobel for that ;)

Re:Surprise? (2)

atisss (1661313) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295820)

Can be modeled using quantum mechanics.

There are many models and they are overlaping, but there is no single theory that's absolutely true and explains everything. Even for just light.
Theory is just how we think it works, and what we have learned to predict. It can be true, but that doesn't exclude other truths.

Re:Surprise? (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296172)

but with light there is fundamental known truth. It always is quantized, made of discrete chunks of energy. there is no alternative possible view to that. It is the first known quantum phenomenon. Anything involving light must have quantum (discrete) creation, transmission, absorption of energy.

Re:Surprise? (1)

Your.Master (1088569) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296548)

That just reduces to the trivial argument that everything uses quantum effects because everything* derives ultimately from QM. It's equivocating compared to what the article is saying.

Fire is a chemical effect that produces light. It's not a quantum effect, in that there's nothing to explain about fire using Quantum Mechanics that cannot be described using chemistry/thermodynamics (maybe a tiny bit of fluid dynamics). You do not need to include quantum mechanics in this mathematical model for the model to be useful -- which isn't to say that there aren't uses for injecting QM understanding into the study of fire, just that it's silly to claim that it's required for the model. When they are talking about quantum effects in photosynthesis they are talking about effects that they cannot easily describe using other well-founded theories.

*modulo some reconciliation problems with relativity, and anything we haven't figured out yet.

Re:Surprise? (1)

harryjohnston (1118069) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298462)

But you can't explain chemistry without quantum mechanics.

Re:Surprise? (1)

harryjohnston (1118069) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298482)

Never mind, my mistake. I see what you mean now.

Photons are not quantized! (1)

dak664 (1992350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297084)

A common misstatement. Planck's constant is a quantum of action, not energy. It has the dimensions of angular momentum, which is momentum*distance or energy*time, i.e. a volume of phase space (4-space in special relativity, dot product of position and momentum 4 vectors). Two free charged particles can exchange arbitrarily small amounts of energy over a long period of time, classical electrodynamics describing that perfectly. However a bound particle can only exchange discrete amounts of energy, the smallest corresponding to a Planck's constant change in action.

To say that "a photon" of a given energy is involved in the interaction between two bound states is a leap of faith. Photons emerge from the Bose-Einstein statistics of spin 1 particles, and are created and destroyed using the statistical raising and lowering operators that describe the energy change in the electromagnetic field.

Re:Surprise? (1)

jovius (974690) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296076)

Light, is a short of shade in the realm of electromagnetic frequencies, on which we all rest upon.

Re:Surprise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38297596)

Recently I've been reading quite a few things about the timescale [wikipedia.org] of light dependent and light independent photosynthesis.

I've heard the light dependent part called a solid-state chemical reaction, because it's nearly instantaneous (femtosecond/picosecond).

So, the speed of the absorption was known, but now there's a more elaborate explanation: quantum coherence.

Oblig XKCD (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38294974)

But wait (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38294996)

Space Nutters keep telling me we need to get off this mud ball and explore the total vacuum of space, since there's nothing left to explore on this rock.

But it sounds to me like that's a relic of the 1960s Space Age and is outdated thinking. We are in the Information Age now, and we are starting to get a real good grasp of how matter operates in the "life" mode. Life extension is the future, by understanding the unbelievable complexity of life, not the very simple fact of empty space.

Re:But wait (3, Insightful)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295136)

The reason Space Nutters keep saying we need to get off this rock is not because there is nothing left to explore, but mainly for two other reasons.

A) The "what if" scenarios that have the Earth being destroyed, if we aren't off the Earth by then humankind is done.

B) We will run out of room, and life extension is only going to make us run out of room quicker. We run out of room and WW1 and WW2 are going to look like small scuffles in comparison.

Re:But wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38295626)

"A) The "what if" scenarios that have the Earth being destroyed, if we aren't off the Earth by then humankind is done."

A similar scenario apparently killed the dinosaurs and allowed us to evolve. What right do we have to alter what will happen to this planet millions of years from now? If you can answer that, you can answer the same to life extension.

"B) We will run out of room, and life extension is only going to make us run out of room quicker. We run out of room and WW1 and WW2 are going to look like small scuffles in comparison."

There is no way that access to space will alter that equation. Whether or not we fill the planet with 80 year olds or 800 year olds, we'll have to solve these problems HERE, with REAL technologies, not fantasies. While I think your motivations are noble, you probably don't understand the magnitude of what you are proposing, and at any rate, there is nothing we can do in space, it's all based on idle daydreams of Space Age prophets, not real, practical technology.

How would putting the richest people on Earth in some space novelty change anything at all to your scenario?

We've already gone through a process of life extension, when we started understanding our bodies, washing our hands before helping women give birth, etc. We KNOW we can handle longer life spans. We also KNOW that human beings aren't meant for space.

I know, it sucks. But it's reality, and opposing reality by believing fantasies is at best a "fugue state", at worst a delusion and a religion.

Re:But wait (4, Insightful)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295746)

What right do we have to alter what will happen to this planet millions of years from now?

Wrong question. We have no rights in this regard.

But we do have a duty towards self-preservation.

Re:But wait (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296080)

You seem to be thinking of this in terms of next week. This is something that might not happen for another 200 years and I accept that.

By the time that we are moving significant amount of people into space we will have already colonized the easy parts of the ocean and made life in deserts sustainable. We will have to have had the technology to make it possible for us to live anywhere on the planet for us to even start to think about actual colonization of space.

Re:But wait (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38296416)

You say what humanity is meant for, then accuse readers of religion? Opposing the current state of existence is virtually the definition of "modern technology".

Re:But wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38295786)

A) The "what if" scenarios that have the Earth being destroyed, if we aren't off the Earth by then humankind is done.

So what? I mean if I have a chance to escape it then great by why does the long term survival of humanity really matter?

B) We will run out of room, and life extension is only going to make us run out of room quicker. We run out of room and WW1 and WW2 are going to look like small scuffles in comparison.

This is a more reasonable driver as it will cause great amounts of suffering that might be avoided and it is in our very nature to avoid suffering but still in the cosmic level scheme of things...so what?.

Re:But wait (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296114)

A) The "what if" scenarios that have the Earth being destroyed, if we aren't off the Earth by then humankind is done.

So what? I mean if I have a chance to escape it then great by why does the long term survival of humanity really matter?

B) We will run out of room, and life extension is only going to make us run out of room quicker. We run out of room and WW1 and WW2 are going to look like small scuffles in comparison.

This is a more reasonable driver as it will cause great amounts of suffering that might be avoided and it is in our very nature to avoid suffering but still in the cosmic level scheme of things...so what?.

You will die someday so you might as well commit suicide.

Re:But wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38297636)

duh, i'm an AC and killing myself daily.

Re:But wait (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297770)

"You will die someday "

should be:
"In Theory,you will die someday "

Re:But wait (4, Informative)

lennier (44736) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296232)

A) The "what if" scenarios that have the Earth being destroyed, if we aren't off the Earth by then humankind is done.

The problem is that even if we have off-Earth colonies, humankind will still be in just as much danger as if we didn't. Consider the most likely scenarios:

1. Asteroid impact. Extensive damage to population and biosphere, but nothing that would render Earth less habitable than Mars. If we had the ability to colonise Mars, we'd certainly have the ability to build shelters on Earth. Result: no need to colonise Mars, just build greenhouses on Earth.

2. War, social unrest, mass insanity. Possible huge damage to Earth's population, depending on how crazy things get. However, space structures will be launched by nation-states and large commercial combines with ties to Earth and will therefore surely be part of the wider Sol system social fabric and will take part in the war. Possibly they'll be the first to be destroyed. For example, World War II began in the core European nations but quickly swept up all European colonies, and some of them such as North Africa and the Pacific became key battlegrounds. Also, the technologies which launched human spaceflight were the flip-side of Earth's worst weapons of mass destruction - the ICBM program. Result: little shelter from a war by extending human culture into space, and a lot of actual danger created by doing so.

3. Plague (including aliens and zombies). A fast spreading virus could conceivably take out most of the human population on-planet, but is unlikely to take out the biosphere or even all of the human population. Earth's survivors will still vastly outnumber any reasonably expected number of space colonists, and will still inherit a much more robust ecosystem than anything on Mars. Worse, any space colonisation program will involve constant resupply and then travel and trade between Earth and the colonies, which will be vectors for transmission of disease. Space colonies themselves will be tightly-packed and fragile, vastly more dangerous places in terms of plague. Result: no survival advantage in space colonies, in fact the colonies will probably die first.

4. Environmental collapse. We're certainly degrading Earth's environment, but space won't help us - all other planets are far worse environmentally than we could conceivably ever make Earth. All space colonies will need either constant resupply from Earth, or the environmental skills to be completely self-sustaining. And if we had those skills, we could just build greenhouses on Earth. Terraform Mars? Well, if we could terraform anywhere reliably, we could start doing it on Earth and fix all our environmental problems in one hit. Result: no environmental disadvantage to going into space, but no advantage either.

5. Ore depletion. Okay, so let's assume we fix the biosphere, but we're still running out of metals to make iPods. We can mine those in space, right? Well, yes and no. If we mine vast quantities of metal and introduce that into Earth's biosphere, that might mess up the biosphere (see 4). Moving asteroid-sized rocks around the system introduces huge military problems (see 2) as they'll be more dangerous than nukes. Space mining is also likely to be be more expensive than just recycling landfill, so where's the commercial advantage? Result: a commercial non-starter and a major military threat, best avoided really.

6. Supernova, red giant. The big one, a complete solar-system destroying event with no chance of sheltering in place. This is the only scenario where conceivably we could improve our chances by going into (interstellar) space. Problem is, to get out of range of Sol going boom we'd need to have either a generation ship going for several hundred years and having already solved the closed life support problem (see 1, 4), so this will be a long-term rather than short-term capability. Best estimates for Sol going boom are millions to billions of years, so again, this is not a pressing human need. Result: maybe worth looking at in a few dozen millennia, AFTER we've stabilised our ecosystem and society.

Bottom line: manned space colonisation doesn't offer any short-term survival advantage, but it does increase the number of immediate threats we face. In the very long term it might be worth investigating.

B) We will run out of room, and life extension is only going to make us run out of room quicker. We run out of room and WW1 and WW2 are going to look like small scuffles in comparison.

Yes, but this will also happen if we expand into space - given exponential growth and even if we had unlimited Earthlike planets accessible faster-than-light, we'll still hit the population wall within a couple century. Colonising the entire galaxy would give us at best a breathing space - it's not a solution. And we don't actualy have FTL travel, and best physics estimates are that we never will. Best we solve the actual underlying problem now rather than wishing for a band-aid that probably doesn't even exist.

Final analysis: Solving our environmental and social problems on Earth is actually a prerequisite for doing any serious long-term space exploration, and far from being an anarchic free wild frontier, space colonies are likely to remain tiny, fragile, strictly socially controlled, and highly dependent politically, economically and materially on Earth for the foreseeable future.

There might one day be a there in space, but there's no there there now, and won't be for at least centuries if not millennia. In the meantime, we have at least a socio-technological if not existential crisis on Earth rapidly approaching on the order of decades. One of these things is worth prioritizing first. The other is not.

Re:But wait (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296400)

Addendum.

5a. Yes, okay, bringing asteroid-sized quantities of ore down-well to Earth is pointless, BUT we could use all that metal to build ships / O'Neill colonies in space! Forget planets, space is where it's at! No gravity, Okay, nice argument, but that assumes you have a reason for people to be IN those colonies to start with. Why are they there? To build more colonies of course! Well, why are the other colonies there? Um.... Unless it's more attractive to live in space than on Earth, people won't live in space. And the problem is, it ISN'T and WON'T be more attractive to live in space, because Earth has all the biosphere resources. Gravity and a magnetosphere also turn out to be essential for human health (see bone calcium loss and radiation sickness). For every one self-sustaining space biosphere, we could build a dozen much cheaper and safer and nicer gated arcologies on Earth (see 1, 4). Result: still no reason to be in space in the first place.

Granted, this equation changes in the far future given the sheer mass of the gas giants. If we could colonise those, there's a lot of raw materials. But that's on the order of centuries to millennia, and more likely the latter. It won't be a problem this generation faces, or even the next five. The human body simply isn't that adaptable, and even if we nuked the Earth a dozen times it would never be a nastier place to live than Jupiter's moons.

Re:But wait (2)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296710)

I do think of space colonization of taking place at least 200 years in the future and you bring up some really good points.

On the disaster side though, if we prepare for a disaster we can weather it, if we are not prepared then we could be fucked. If a major disaster happens it won't matter that living on Earth is easier than living on Mars if how we currently live on Earth is sensitive to disasters. It could happen that an asteroid hits Yellowstone or something else comically unlikely that would kill a very large percentage of the people and make growing food outdoors very very hard. Greenhouses wouldn't work cause the sun is blocked out, you would have to grow entirely indoors using artificial light.

We can survive that, but if we had off world colonies then the colonies could help the people on Earth and make things much less end of the worldy.

And the problem is, it ISN'T and WON'T be more attractive to live in space

I can definitely agree with the ISN'T, not so much with the WON'T. If you are living in your little habitat in the Atacama desert then living in your little habitat in space might be looking about equal depending on if you can get a job there.

Humans, now, aren't adapted to space (1)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297098)

You're quite right. I think the best route to having off-Earth colonies is to engineer people so that they can deal with zero-G, high radiation, low temperatures, and live off sunlight.

It's not us, but our solid-state descendants who will inherit the galaxy.

--PM

Re:Humans, now, aren't adapted to space (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 2 years ago | (#38302082)

It's not us, but our solid-state descendants who will inherit the galaxy.

Wow, a galaxy run by pocket calculators.. How very awe inspiring.

Re:But wait (3, Interesting)

lennier (44736) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296542)

Addendum Two.

I believe the real reason the myth of the space colony still hangs around is that secretly (or not so secretly), otherwise intelligent people believe that the real problem with Earth isn't that we face resource shortages or biosphere degradation, but that those social and environmental problems are all really the fault of the ignorant swarming masses. And if we could only somehow get rid of the lower 99% of the Earth's population, we'd be fine.

The attraction of the space colony is that it's believed to be an elite, gated community which by virtue of its extreme expense and difficulty, would attract only a "high class of colonist" along the lines of the first generation of US astronauts: university PhD educated, military trained, logical scientific thinkers, in the peak of physical fitness. Given such a genetic pool of "the right stuff", the space myth goes, these super-demigods couldn't help but create a new Utopia of scientific wonders, even given the huge resource disadvantage they started from.

It's really an updated Atlas Shrugged idea: a Galt's Gulch in space populated only by Earth's Finest, who would sadly watch the dull, evil swarming masses back on Earth collapse into inevitable resource war and chaos, while the smart people up on the colony would of course just get on with making life better for everyone. As a political philosophy, it's basically Space Libertarianism, shading towards good old 1800s aristicratic racism: just putting "a better class of people" into a locked room, and keeping everyone else out, would create instant utopia. It's slightly less genocidal than out-and-out Fascism, since it just leaves Earth's masses to rot rather than actively killing them, but it harbours the same intense distrust and hatred of the untermensch as the worst excesses of WW2.

The problem is, utopias simply don't work like that. There've been many attempts at creating closed, self-selected communities, and they always go bad. Not even thinking about cults, have you ever seen a university, political activist movement, or high-tech company in action? Have you seen the kind of petty squabbles that occur in our elite institutions? Do you really think things will be different in space?

No. They won't be. And that's why the virtuous, pioneering Space Colony that can magic a healed biosphere and super-energy sources by sheer force of logic out of a desert of vacuum and hard radiation - just so long as they're not pestered by those ignorant savages down on Earth - is just that, a myth, and a fairly nasty one. We really need to put it behind us before it screws up our thinking even more than it has.

Re:But wait (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296832)

The attraction of the space colony is that it's believed to be an elite, gated community which by virtue of its extreme expense and difficulty, would attract only a "high class of colonist" along the lines of the first generation of US astronauts: university PhD educated, military trained, logical scientific thinkers, in the peak of physical fitness. Given such a genetic pool of "the right stuff", the space myth goes, these super-demigods couldn't help but create a new Utopia of scientific wonders, even given the huge resource disadvantage they started from.

Except the first colonies will more resemble an off-shore oil rig than a gated community. They will be more along the lines of places where work gets done as opposed to where decisions are made.

The problem is, utopias simply don't work like that. There've been many attempts at creating closed, self-selected communities, and they always go bad. Not even thinking about cults, have you ever seen a university, political activist movement, or high-tech company in action? Have you seen the kind of petty squabbles that occur in our elite institutions? Do you really think things will be different in space?

Yes, I have lived in a commune, or as they are more commonly called nowdays an organic community. You nailed it.

Re:But wait (1)

marnues (906739) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297294)

Certainly I've had those thoughts, and certainly I found the hypothetical results lacking. Utopia it would not be. However, it still felt correct. So years later while studying history I had this brilliant idea (that I'm certain to not be the first). I noticed that great things happened when incredible social upheaval occurs. This is mostly brought on by large migration (Aryan invasion of India, Greeks colonizing the Mediterranean, the Great Migration period of the late Roman Empire, New World colonies). In other words, I want a new America. The more I read, the more I realize the greatness of America is that it captures the high points of European culture while attempting to cast off it's low points. Once achieved, the new culture then transmits the better social order back home, uplifting all. Perhaps this can be replicated on Antarctica or in the Oceans, but most places are already politically stable and have a cultural equilibrium that prevents any revolution of having great affect (note the difference between the American and French revolutions).

So truthfully it's not that space colonization will bring some splendid utopia of perfect people, but rather give us the next migration point that allows revolutionary ideas to take hold. Perhaps the Oceans and Antartica come first. But we do need to spread out to places that allow political upheaval and new social orders. Space will be the next colony someday. And it behooves us to colonize it. Not to build a Utopia, but for the progress of man everywhere.

Re:But wait (1)

BaronAaron (658646) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298584)

Bottom line: manned space colonisation doesn't offer any short-term survival advantage, but it does increase the number of immediate threats we face. In the very long term it might be worth investigating.

A short-term survival advantage would be making a game-changing discovery like extraterrestrial life or some form of cheap energy (H3 maybe?). It's presumptuous to assume there is nothing out there that can't help us right now this very instant. Earth is but a tiny sample of the what the Universe has to offer us. Who knows what is out there that could solve our current problems and radically change the world. The short expeditions we've taken into our solar system haven't even scratch the surface. It's only through long term human presence in space that we can even begin to understand how it will effect society as a whole. Exploration is human nature for a good reason. The benefits often outweigh the risks.

Re:But wait (2)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295312)

Space Nutters? GTFO of /.

Re:But wait (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38296062)

Oh look, a 13 year old with delusions of Moon colonies and warp drives. Get an education, you fool.

Don't wait! (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296876)

Oh look, a 43 year old Anonymous Coward with delusions of living somewhere other than mom's basement. Get an education, social skills, a job, a girlfriend (need I go on?), you fool.

Re:But wait (1)

Lotana (842533) | more than 2 years ago | (#38299372)

I am annoyed at how often these obvious "Space Nutter" troll posts keep popping up in even the most least relevant stories.

I am just as much shocked at how effective they are at getting so many people to bite.

Possibly related from theoretical chemistry? (2)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295032)

This *might* be related to my wife's PhD research from several years back. Proton Coupled Electron Transfer. She's in a seminar right now, but when she's back at her desk, I'll past this by her to see if it relates. I could be totally wrong, but I know physicists approach the same kinds of things using different terms and models than chemists. Either way, PCET is an interesting effect that also happens in photosynthesis:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PCET [wikipedia.org]

Re:Possibly related from theoretical chemistry? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38301472)

Please get her to post!

Stupid plants! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38295038)

Up yours!

I see what you did there... (1, Funny)

SpeedRacer (41138) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295056)

"hard to be sure"

Ha! Who would have guessed - uncertainty in quantum mechanics!

Civilian? (-1, Offtopic)

andawyr (212118) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295146)

The U.K. has the world's largest civilian stockpile of plutonium.

A civilian stockpile? Can someone explain to me how the UK has a civilian stockpile of plutonium?

Re:Civilian? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38295224)

RTF headline? And I thought people who didn't RTF summary were bad...

Photoelectric Effect (5, Interesting)

cosm (1072588) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295184)

I've seen some comments stating that 'meh photoelectric effect nothing new to see here'. While it is true that emission/absorption is subject to quantum mechanics, specifically the photo-electric effect being governed by the work function hf = phi - eV, with hf = hc/lambda, phi being the work-function of the material, and eV being the 'escape velocity' of the electrons; the point being that energy emitted/absorbed must satisfy the above relationship, otherwise the photo-electric effect does not work.

What I believe this study is saying is that 'antennae' structures can act as a single quantum mechanical unit (the coherence) so that the incoming insolar radiation has more paths for electron conduction, since the transfer of energy/conduction of electrons is limited to the quantization by the work function, i.e., charge quantization limits the specific wavelengths/frequencies/energies of incoming photons that the plant can use to harvest energy, so in effect the evolution of these 'antennae' structures over time allows for a coherent systems that can act as single particles, with the different permutations of antennas allowing for vastly more permutations of allowed incoming wavelengths to satisfy the Schrodinger eqn (probably not dirac since these are most likely not relativistic interactions, at least the effects are negligible).

I deal more with relativity and QED/QCD, but that's my interpretation of the article.

Re:Photoelectric Effect (2)

cosm (1072588) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295330)

**I meant to type 'I deal more with relativity than I do QED/QCD', we haven't quite come to a point where the statement:
IF (Relativity == True && QED-QCD == True) THEN { TheoriesMergedWithoutIssue = True;}

Must of been my subconscious hoping for the yet to be completed reconciliation of the two :)

Here's a paper back in '07 about it... (3, Interesting)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296592)

Back in '07, this article was published...

http://www.physics.gla.ac.uk/~dtngo/Article/Nature_446_782_2007.pdf [gla.ac.uk]

As I understand this, in the classical photosynthesis model, energy transfer is sort of modeled like the incoming sunlight excites a population of light absorbing "antennea" pigments which transfer the energy to reaction centers where long term energy storage is initiated (e.g., the CO2->sugar conversion). If the energy transfer was "classically" photoelectric, you'd see a system where light excites a population of antenna of different pigments, which then re-emit the energy at a wavelength compatible with the photosynthesis.

If this was true, you could potentially measure electric field and look for frequency of absorbtion and re-emission (they would look like 2 frequency peaks). However, if there were some sort of state coupling, you'd also see beat frequencies corresponding to the difference in energies between various pigments and the re-emission. That in itself is not that interesting, but the fact that when they sent in pulses, these frequencies corresponding to beat frequencies seems to persist longer than the expected coherence time which apparently suggests that coherence lasts long enough to transit all the way from the antenna/pigments to the location of energy conversion (in this case 660 femtoseconds).

The next step is to hypothesize that you can use QM and treat the full system as essentially coherently absorbing light at with the exactly correct antenna/pigment and re-emitting it essentially lossless to the conversion point, rather than it absorbing a collection/population of antenna over a period of time (some of them efficiently, some of them less efficienty), and re-emitting the energy (the classical model). Of course this is a pretty big step and is not a constructive argument, but it is in line with observations about photosynthetic efficiency and there is now more measurements to back up the potential (QM/coherence) pathway which might be able to explain that efficiency..

Re:Photoelectric Effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38296610)

I've seen some comments stating that 'meh photoelectric effect nothing new to see here'. While it is true that emission/absorption is subject to quantum mechanics, specifically the photo-electric effect being governed by the work function hf = phi - eV, with hf = hc/lambda, phi being the work-function of the material, and eV being the 'escape velocity' of the electrons; the point being that energy emitted/absorbed must satisfy the above relationship, otherwise the photo-electric effect does not work.

What I believe this study is saying is that 'antennae' structures can act as a single quantum mechanical unit (the coherence) so that the incoming insolar radiation has more paths for electron conduction, since the transfer of energy/conduction of electrons is limited to the quantization by the work function, i.e., charge quantization limits the specific wavelengths/frequencies/energies of incoming photons that the plant can use to harvest energy, so in effect the evolution of these 'antennae' structures over time allows for a coherent systems that can act as single particles, with the different permutations of antennas allowing for vastly more permutations of allowed incoming wavelengths to satisfy the Schrodinger eqn (probably not dirac since these are most likely not relativistic interactions, at least the effects are negligible).

I deal more with relativity and QED/QCD, but that's my interpretation of the article.

Brain explodes.

This stuff is interesting but way way over my head :)

So this means... (2)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295194)

The plants REALLY do have a chance against the Zombies. They can use their quantum energy blasters!!!!

Re:So this means... (2)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295728)

I'm just happy vegetables can do quantum physics. It means I have a chance.

As I stated before in the Ars Comments (0)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295370)

This is something we tested by accident with our zero-light fodder system. We found a different pathway to stimulate, however, and do it via pulsing current through the nutrient solution at insanely high frequencies, using induction coils. Keeps the fodder grass nice and green.

This study will help us understand why this works.

Re:As I stated before in the Ars Comments (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295480)

And while in bad fashion, I thought I'd keep the 'spam' contained within my post here.

A peep inside while the BBC was filming there this past Monday. [imgur.com]

Re:As I stated before in the Ars Comments (1)

The Askylist (2488908) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297224)

Wrong sort of grass!

Re:As I stated before in the Ars Comments (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298000)

Oh, I'm sorry, did you want this grass? [imgur.com]

Gonna have to wait another decade, I wager.

Obviously. Evolution uses everything! (4, Interesting)

Warwick Allison (209388) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295442)

Any evolved system will use all possible inputs to its fitness function, simply because there isn't any mechanism of focusing. Unlike human design, which is all about making known mechanisms work and all but those mechanism are ignored, and even actively avoided. When early researchers used solid-state electronics to make genetic algorithms, often the "solution" only worked on the specific hardware circuit it was learnt on (not supposedly identical copies), because it relied on otherwise-undefined race conditions in the silicon.

So don't be surprised if quantum effects are also used by your brain cells ... and by your anal sphincter.

Re:Obviously. Evolution uses everything! (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297726)

Evolution uses everything? I've heard it said evolution never discovered the wheel.

Re:Obviously. Evolution uses everything! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38298680)

Cicindela dorsalis media

Re:Obviously. Evolution uses everything! (1)

Warwick Allison (209388) | more than 2 years ago | (#38299518)

Wheels are not inputs. The input is the roughness of the surface to be traveled over (and the lack of a naturally occurring road network is perhaps why animals don't use wheels).

Re:Obviously. Evolution uses everything! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38301854)

Well, it kind-of discovered the wheel (a rotating mechanism), in the form of the flagellum. As for the usefulness of the wheel, well, there's no evolutionary benefit to it. You see in order to make use of the wheel, you'd need things like roads. And if any creature evolved to create roads, then those roads could just as well be useful to every other animal. It gives them no competitive advantage.

emulate it with graphene? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38295540)

what kinda efficiency we talking here?

If you think: (2)

WSOGMM (1460481) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295692)

If you think our technology has traveled a long way so far, consider still how far ahead evolution is. Things like this amaze me.

Re:If you think: (3, Funny)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38296274)

What's really impressive is that plants started using quantum effects before there were any cats.

Wouldn't it be great if Einstein's's ... (1)

crovira (10242) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295766)

spooky action at a distance " (at the heart of quantum coherence) had never been further than his salad bowl...

"Decoherence" (4, Interesting)

Theovon (109752) | more than 2 years ago | (#38295836)

The way people often describe quantum decoherence is that an "observation" occurs that "collapses the wave function" and causes a superposition to converge to a single classical state. But I really think that's a misleading explanation. For one thing, surely the same phenomena occurred long before there were any intelligent observers, and secondly, scientists have observed things in states of quantum superposition WITHOUT causing decoherence.

The way think of it (as a total amateur in the area) is that rather than the wave function representing probabilities of states, it represents the degrees to which something is in all of those states. An "observation" is just like many other interactions with the environment that change those probabilities (or degrees of state).

Then there's the question of why subatomic particles (and some larger things) can be in states of quantum superposition, while larger things cannot. Penrose had a suggestion here. It's gravity. The more massive you are, the less your superimposed states can diverge from one another. Even a planet is in a state of superposition, but all of those states overlap so much relative to the dimensions of the object that you cannot distinguish them.

Re:"Decoherence" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38296112)

For one thing, surely the same phenomena occurred long before there were any intelligent observers.

Nope.

Then there's the question of why subatomic particles (and some larger things) can be in states of quantum superposition, while larger things cannot.

This is a common misconception. "Larger" things can be in a superposition as well; there is nothing about quantum mechanics that keeps it from working on a macroscopic scale.

Re:"Decoherence" (1)

Theovon (109752) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298052)

For one thing, surely the same phenomena occurred long before there were any intelligent observers.

Nope.

Right, and the laws of thermodynamic changed the moment intelligence evolved. Sheesh.

Then there's the question of why subatomic particles (and some larger things) can be in states of quantum superposition, while larger things cannot.

This is a common misconception. "Larger" things can be in a superposition as well; there is nothing about quantum mechanics that keeps it from working on a macroscopic scale.

I think that's what I said.

Re:"Decoherence" (1)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298734)

"Observation" is probably the most epically bad choice of words ever in the history of physics.

It's spawned the entire New Age religion -- as if the particles were noticing "eyes on them" and started to behave.

Any interaction with other particles/waves causes decoherence. So hopefully, this will help quell all the romantic notions that particles have consciousness -- it really isn't necessary.

Re:"Decoherence" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38297302)

scientists have observed things in states of quantum superposition WITHOUT causing decoherence.

Total Bullshit.

You're clearly so far beyond uninformed that I find it amazing that you're able to read and write, let alone use a computer.

The way think of it (as a total amateur in the area)

Amateur doesn't even begin to describe you. Kent Hovind and Deepak Chopra look like expert physicists compared to you. That is, if your incoherent ramblings are any indication of your competence!

Re:"Decoherence" (1)

Theovon (109752) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298038)

It looks like there's some high-schooler who like to go around posting flames as an anonymous coward. Funny how such people are so cowardly that they can't put ANY name to such harsh words. Too bad we can't find these people and give them a good paddling.

Anyhow, this says nothing at all about whether I'm right or wrong, although some if what I said is consistent with the wikipedia article on quantum decoherence.

The key idea with regard to decoherence is, "Decoherence occurs when a system interacts with its environment in a thermodynamically irreversible way."

Re:"Decoherence" (1)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298712)

I've got a much simpler, amateur explanation for Quantum Observation;

Let's say the Photon is the size of a person, or an Electron the size of a Pig. "Observation" is like launching a Cow at that Human or Pig with a catapult, and then being totally surprised that you ruined the planned stroll of that person/pig.

Before I take the alleged "Law of Quantum Physics" concerning observation seriously, we've got to find a way to OBSERVE with things that have less mass and energy than the particle or wave in question.

Re:"Decoherence" (2)

FrangoAssado (561740) | more than 2 years ago | (#38298934)

The way people often describe quantum decoherence is that an "observation" occurs that "collapses the wave function" and causes a superposition to converge to a single classical state. But I really think that's a misleading explanation. For one thing, surely the same phenomena occurred long before there were any intelligent observers [...]

I can't say if it's misleading or not (it might mislead someone...), but it doesn't sound misleading to me. But an important point is that most people nowadays accept that "observation" doesn't require (and has nothing to do with) an intelligent observer. A photon can "observe" a system just as well as a person.

Also, there are many interpretations of quantum mechanics where the collapse of the wavefunction is not as fundamental as in Copenhagen. For example, here's an account of an extension of the Schrödinger's cat experiment according to one such interpretation: Schrödinger is locked in his lab looking at the box that houses the famous cat that is in a superposition of "dead" and "alive". When he opens the box, he observes the cat, and collapses the cat's wavefunction to either dead or alive. But Dirac, who is outside the lab, describes the situation inside the lab as a superposition of "dead cat + sad Schrödinger" and "live cat + happy Schrödinger". When Dirac opens the door of the lab, he observes the situation and collapses (cat + Schrödinger)'s wavefunction to either "dead+sad" or "alive+happy". These "observations" are completely arbitrary, and in fact, you could imagine one such "observation" for each photon that interacts with the system for the first time.

[...] and secondly, scientists have observed things in states of quantum superposition WITHOUT causing decoherence.

I think there's some confusion here. An observation necessarily causes decoherence, because after the observation, a description of the observed system must necessarily include the different states of the observer in each branch of the wavefunction, so the branches become orthogonal [wikipedia.org] . (If you believe in the collapse of the wavefunction, you just throw away all but one of the branches, but wither way, there's decoherence.) Well, technically, you could have the observer with the same state in some of the branches, but that would mean that there would be no way for the observer to distinguish between these branches, so there would be no "observation" for these branches. I think this is getting too technical, so I'll stop here, but the point is: if the observer can distinguish between two states of the observed system, then there's decoherence [wikipedia.org] .

The way think of it (as a total amateur in the area) is that rather than the wave function representing probabilities of states, it represents the degrees to which something is in all of those states. An "observation" is just like many other interactions with the environment that change those probabilities (or degrees of state).

That's (part of) another perfectly fine interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Then there's the question of why subatomic particles (and some larger things) can be in states of quantum superposition, while larger things cannot. Penrose had a suggestion here. It's gravity. The more massive you are, the less your superimposed states can diverge from one another. Even a planet is in a state of superposition, but all of those states overlap so much relative to the dimensions of the object that you cannot distinguish them.

Well, let's be fair here: first of all, there's no agreement that larger things cannot be in a superposition of states -- many people believe it's just a matter of isolating the system well enough. Secondly, Penrose's "suggestion" is extremely controversial, and not many people buy it. There's no evidence whatsoever that gravity has anything to do with collapsing the wavefunction (if the collapse indeed happens -- for some interpretations, it doesn't exist at all). But gravity doesn't fit at all with our current understanding of quantum mechanics, so technically it's still a possibility. But so are many other arguably more plausible explanations.

Re:"Decoherence" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38302148)

I would like to express my belief that the entire Universe is part of the superposition, and that it never actually "collapses" at all . We perform an act of conscious perception that makes it seem so to us, that's all.

Gels are quantum coherent (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38295858)

This highly mathematical discussion of photosynthesis is completely unnecessary. One need only understand what a dipole is, that water is an incredible dipole, and the capabilities of gels, in order to understand how it is that proteins structure the water. And from there, it is a short logical leap to understand how life extracts energy from electricity. Gerald Pollack presents all of this in terms of the very clearly-stated underlying physics of phase transitions in gels (and polymers) within his book "Gels, Cells and the Engines of Life". Mae Wan Ho also has much to say on this topic, adding that proton-jumping is possible (aka semiconduction in condensed matter physics) in this structured water.

Put simply: Proteins are covered in alternating charges designed specifically to accept water. Since water is such a strong dipole, it locks onto the protein in such a manner that a 3d lattice of alternating spins is achieved. This "structured water" behaves COMPLETELY DIFFERENTLY from unstructured water. This is an example of a phase transition in a gel. The body can structure and unstructure this water at will. And that simple capability can be used to actually explain every single one of the cell's functionalities.

Gerald Pollack's investigation into the mistakes in cell biology are revolutionary, and these findings will herald a major medical revolution once they become more widely known and studied. Slashdotters will be very interested in the quantum computing implications, as it all suggests quite directly that we can create custom "living" quantum computers -- life whose sole purpose is to behave as a computer. One need only fully understand all of the various biopolymers phase transitions, and piece them together into a functional system. In fact, this is exactly what happened "accidentally", when life formed.

Re:Gels are quantum coherent (1)

The Raven (30575) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297040)

I have moderator points, but there's no entry for 'slashvertisement' or 'paid shill'. It's possible that your post is completely accurate and insightful, but it sounds like you're flogging one fringe opinion. "One need only fully understand...", "Gerald Pollack's investigation into the mistakes in [the establishment] are revolutionary...".

I'm not buying the cool aid.

Re:Gels are quantum coherent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38299938)

So be it. I stopped trying in earnest to convince anybody on Slashdot of anything which pertains to science many years ago. I am an electrical and computer engineer myself, and I spent some time working in Silicon Valley -- and being a huge fan of Slashdot -- long before I developed an awareness of the mistakes embedded within conventional theories. That more nuanced view tends to come at a much later stage (some might call it wisdom). One thing which has become absolutely clear to me is that the culture that dominates this forum is completely hostile to any discussion of any mistakes in conventional scientific reasoning. That's pretty silly, because there certainly is nothing even remotely close to a "theory of everything". Furthermore, it's safe to say that Slashdot will be the absolute last place where one would learn of new ideas in science. Slashdot is simply not a place where new ideas can be born, because that notion is antithetical to the very idea behind Slashdot's ideology -- which, if you want my honest opinion, is to basically worship science as a form of religion.

(Would a shill trying to sell a book talk like this? Probably not.)

This hatred towards critical thinking in science would be a waste of time for anybody to try to change. But, do be aware that just because you guys have chosen not to expose yourselves to new ideas which contradict conventional wisdom, those things are indeed still happening. There is still a "cutting edge" to science which does occasionally originate from the fringes of science, even if that somehow bothers the people here.

Gerald Pollack is so far ahead of the discussion happening here on Slashdot on this particular topic that it's really quite sad to behold. Part of the problem is that your community thinks that it can tease out the truth of the universe through mathematics (abstract reasoning), while simultaneously ignoring the value of concepts and interdisciplinary synthesis. Abstraction is a major problem at the two ends of science -- the macro and the micro -- and yet, these two areas of science are particularly vital for formulating our worldview in science.

There is this test called a "force concept inventory" test which has been given to Harvard physics students, and it consistently demonstrates uber-low conceptual understanding in physics. The way in which we teach physics today is essentially a process of memorizing one worldview. There is no critical thinking whatsoever in these programs. Slashdot is proof of this. Every press release is judged on the basis of how well it conforms to orthodoxy. This is not critical thinking.

Furthermore, I don't know about you, but the engineering school that I went to did not teach me any history or philosophy of science. I had to pick that up in my free time, after I graduated. I suspect that most engineering schools likely do the same. You might want to think carefully about the implications of a community of people who are traditionally not taught to care about either history of philosophy of science -- and yet, are encouraged to speak up on important issues in science.

Re:Gels are quantum coherent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38301694)

(Would a shill trying to sell a book talk like this?

Absolutely, yes, they would. You are a crackpot.

Re:Gels are quantum coherent (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38297852)

Um, no. Seriously, did you read his crap at all?

We know how things work at the level, we can watch them. IT's like saying fast gnomes are the cause of gravity.

Anyone ever heard of... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38298690)

Orch-OR theory (Quantum Mind theory)?

If plants are doing it, I would be really surprised if such a nifty trick wouldn't also be used in communication between neurons in the brain.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orch-OR

The main objection (in the face of mounting evidence and backing theory) is that quantum coherence could never be maintained at biological temperatures/environments... well I guess that's not really an issue any more.

I can't wait to see what else the emerging field of quantum biology is going to bring :D

Whither Darwinian Evolution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38298794)

Isn't it near madness to continue to assert that these kinds of systems evolved naturalistically via Darwinian mechanisms? While there may be some other mechanism of evolution at work (see Shapiro, for example), the idea that random mutation and natural selection could produce this kind of complexity is laughable. Its a valid hypothesis, and its OK to say this *may* have evolved Darwinistically, but there's no evidence that anything nontrivial could be built this way.

Darwin knew nothing of what goes on at the molecular level, and he distorted the scientific method in a way that biology has yet to recover from.

Re:Whither Darwinian Evolution? (1)

Warwick Allison (209388) | more than 2 years ago | (#38299648)

Let me guess: you think God Did It is a better explanation?.

Tip: if you can't imagine something, that's a failing of yours, not of the thing you can't imagine.

I just finished reading Thomas Paine's Age of Reason. Only in his time was there any excuse to use the God Did It argument - a time before the discovery of DNA, Evolution, or even galaxies. Today, only an atheist can appreciate the poignancy of Paine's religious beliefs.

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