Entanglement and DNA

Religion / Science

I apologize for the extended silence on this blog. My family and I have been traveling; looking at colleges for our daughter who’s a rising High School senior. I was back in the eastern US for much of the past month, living out of a suitcase and learning more about liberal arts colleges than I’ve ever known. It was all worth it. Even if our daughter doesn’t attend one of the schools we visited, getting a chance to just hang out with her for one last long trip before she starts the process of leaving home and going off on her own was priceless. Plus we had some wonderful conversations and experiences that I’ll treasure the rest of my life. (And which make the sticker shock of this whole thing more palatable…)

I’ve not been neglecting to keep up with my reading though. I’ve got pile ‘o links to articles that were published over the past couple of months and I expect it’s going to take me the rest of the summer to work through the backlog. I’ve been traveling with my new iPad, a truly wondrous device if you’re traveling by air, and it makes staying current really quite easy. So sit back and enjoy the stream ‘o news for the next few weeks or so.

A number of the articles that I’ve been reading and marked for posting have to do with the location of the effective boundary between classical and quantum mechanical behavior. Classical physics is fixedly deterministic. Mostly. Except when things go non-linear or chaotic. But mostly deterministic. Quantum physics just isn’t. It’s probabilistic. Most of the time this isn’t a problem because the probabilism occurs at a regime far distant than the one which we experience.

But every so often an important part of our world turns out to depend totally on a quantum effect. Like solid-state transistors. Without the possibility of quantum tunneling, all the keen electronics we play with today wouldn’t be possible. The computer I’m writing this upon, and the one you’re using to read these words? Totally dependent on quantum physics. In a perfectly deterministic Universe, where “yes” was always “yes” and “no” was always “no”, and where we could just use plain sense reasoning to work out what was going on around us, computers such as we use right now couldn’t exist.

Neither too could we apparently.

Ever wonder what makes DNA able to create such magical, replicable, sequences of information? Scientists have. Simple chemical bonds don’t have the reliability apparently – and will break down too easily for the DNA coding to be able to last very long.

So, now:

“a group of physicists say that the weird laws of quantum mechanics may be more important for life than biologists could ever have imagined. Their new idea is that DNA is held together by quantum entanglement.

That’s worth picking apart in more detail. Entanglement is the weird quantum process in which a single wavefunction describes two separate objects. When this happens, these objects effectively share the same existence, no matter how far apart they might be.

[…]The question of course is how to prove this. They say that one line of evidence is that a purely classical analysis of the energy required to hold DNA together does not add up. However, their quantum model plugs the gap. That’s interesting but they’ll need to come up with something experimentally convincing to persuade biologists of these ideas.

[…]Speculative but potentially explosive work.”

So, it’s apparently theoretically tenable, solves a significant problem in biology, and nw needs to verified. It’s not terribly surprising to me. Quantum entanglement apparently allows birds to literally see magnetic field lines and thus perform their amazing navigational feats. Perhaps biology is much more quantum than we’ve ever imagined.

Full article here.

So, if the probabilistic world is critically important to life, shouldn’t we be thinking about how to talk about God using the same sorts of thinking? I mean, God makes life possible…

Stay tuned.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. Bob Zakowski says

    “Through a Worm Hole” on the Science channel was discussing this very topic in this past Wednesday’s episode.

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