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Today we’ve got the relatively new field of quantum biology to assess. For years the idea of quantum effects in biological cells was dismissed because live cells were ‘too warm and wet’ to host these sensitive quantum effects. But new research into quantum coherence in avian navigation, quantum tunnelling in DNA mutations, in enzymes, even in smell - has brought new interest and study to the field of Quantum Biology.


One biochemist, saw all this coming and wrote a book about it 20 years ago called, ‘Quantum Evolution’. He is none other that than Professor of Molecular Genetics at Surrey university, JohnJoe McFadden.

His mainstream research is in microbial genetics, particularly in developing new systems biology approaches to infectious diseases. He is a keen promoter of public understanding of science and has given many popular science talks on subjects as varied as evolution and GM food. He also writes popular science articles, particularly for the Guardian newspaper. His specialties are broad including: systems biology, microbiology, evolutionary genetics, infectious diseases, tuberculosis, meningitis, and bionanotechnology.


He’s written many books but today we’ll be focussing on material from his newer books, ‘Life on the Edge, the coming age of Quantum Biology with physicist Jim Al-Khalili, and ‘Life is Simple: How Occam's Razor Set Science Free and Unlocked the Universe’.

What we discuss:

00:00 Intro

04:30 ‘Too Warm and Wet’ Dismissing quantum consciousness in microtubules

08:40 Roger Penrose: Consciousness may be a field

14:28 The macro universe must be quantum in some way

16:22 Electrons don’t have a specific location, but larger objects do

17:30 Nobody understands the cut-off point between classical large and quantum small

18:00 The difficulty maintaining quantum coherence in hot, wet biological systems

20:20 Quantum coherence in Photosynthesis, enzymes, DNA mutations and avian navigation

23:00 Life ‘amplifies’ the dynamics of stuff going on at the quantum level to a classical level

25:00 The evidence for Quantum biology and why many biologists are still sceptical

26:00 Photosynthesis: Remarkably near %100 efficiency of photon capture

32:30 Evidence for Quantum Tunneling in enzymes, our own nano-machines

36:45 Enzymes are catalysts that accelerate processes to an incredible degree

40:10 Claim of entanglement in avian navigation

49:30 University of Surrey ‘Quantum Biology’ PHD graduate program

54:30 Science is becoming more and more interdisciplinary

57:00 Biologists sometimes need to go to quantum mechanics to understand their phenomena

01:01:15 Filling the gap between the big and the small is always fuzzy

01:03:00 The quantum measurement problem

01:06:00 The binding problem: Consciousness is located in electromagnetic fields

01:12:00 The brain is a receiver and a transmitter: Conscious Electromagnetic information theory

01:16:00 William of Occam’s ‘Razor’ explained

01:20:00 You’ve got to separate your faith from science

01:22:00 Any sufficiently advanced science would look like metaphysics

01:24:00 Our ability to invent supernatural agencies

01:24:40 Roger Penrose: a reflection of a previous universe in the microwave background

01:27:00 Simple models aren’t an ontological claim about the world being simple

01:28:30 Bayesian likelihood reasoning makes sharper predictions



‘Life on the Edge’ Johnjoe McFadden, Jim Al-Khalili

Life is Simple’ Johnjoe McFadden

The Emperor’s New Mind’ Roger Penrose

Greg Engel, Quantum Coherence in Photosynthesis paper (2011)

Surrey University, Quantum Biology PHD program

Johnjoe McFadden, Consciousness: Matter or EMF paper

Judith Klinman, Quantum Tunneling in Enzymes paper (2006)

Thorston Ritz, Avian navigation paper (2004)

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