Quantum criticality in biologic protein systems (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Wednesday, August 15, 2018, 21:17 (479 days ago)

The movement of electrons is poorly understood in the biochemistry of life:


"Stuart Kauffman, from the University of Calgary, and several of his colleagues have recently published a paper on the Arxiv server titled 'Quantum Criticality at the Origins of Life'. The idea of a quantum criticality, and more generally quantum critical states, comes perhaps not surprisingly, from solid state physics. It describes unusual electronic states that are are balanced somewhere between conduction and insulation. More specifically, under certain conditions, current flow at the critical point becomes unpredictable. When it does flow, it tends to do so in avalanches that vary by several orders of magnitude in size.


"The potential existence of quantum critical points in proteins is a new idea that will need some experimental evidence to back it up. Kauffman and his group eloquently describe the major differences between current flow in proteins as compared to metallic conductors.

"By contrast, this kind of a mechanism would appear to be uncommon in biological systems. The authors note that charges entering a critically conducting biomolecule will be under the joint influence of the quantum Hamiltonian and the excessive decoherence caused by the environment. Currently a huge focus in Quantum biology, this kind of conductance has been seen for example, for excitons in the light-harvesting systems. As might already be apparent here, the logical flow of the paper, at least to nonspecialists, quickly devolves into the more esoteric world of quantum Hamiltonians and niche concepts like 'Anderson localization.'


" Turin.. notes that the question of how electrons get across proteins is one of the great unsolved problems in biophysics, and that the Kauffman paper points in a novel direction to possibly explain conduction. Quantum tunnelling (which is an essential process, for example, in the joint special ops of proteins of the respiratory chain) works fine over small distances. However, rates fall precipitously with distance. Traditional hole and electron transport mechanisms butt against the high bandgap and absence of obvious acceptor impurities. Yet at rest our body's fuel cell generates 100 amps of electron current.


"In suggesting that biomolecules, or at least most of them, are quantum critical conductors, Kauffman and his group are claiming that their electronic properties are precisely tuned to the transition point between a metal and an insulator. An even stronger reading of this would have that there is a universal mechanism of charge transport in living matter which can exist only in highly evolved systems. To back all this up the group took a closer look at the electronic structure of a few of our standard issue proteins like myoglobin, profilin, and apolipoprotein E.


"However, in asking why life just uses the molecules that does, the authors don't explicitly address the question of just how many potential small biomolecules and or proteins would be expected to quantum critical in the first place. They do note that some biomolecules are actually fairly good conductors.
"We might call to mind at this point that others have looked for similar kinds of extreme behaviours in other examples of life's proteins. Stuart Hameroff has been a long time champion of networks of polymerized tubulins in the conduction of information in the cells through as yet fully defined mechanisms. In particular, we should mention recent work on driving the rapidly polymerization of microtubules through external electromagnetic fields raises the question of what new kinds of physics may be at play here. I discussed some of this in more detail elsewhere the other day, together with some of the researchers here for anyone interested to read a little more."

Comment: I am convinced that quantum mechanics underlies whatever is present in our universe and is actively present in the biochemistry of life. Foe example, in the past I have presented articles on photosynthesis, where quantum activity has been identified, as emphasized by my bold above. This is such a highly technical and theoretical field it is difficult to fully understand it, but then quantum theory is still at the outer edges of what it all means. Note this abstract:


"Abstract. Why life persists at the edge of chaos is a question at the very heart of evolution. Here we show that molecules taking part in biochemical processes from small molecules to proteins are critical quantum mechanically. Electronic Hamiltonians of biomolecules are tuned exactly to the critical point of the metal-insulator transition separating the Anderson localized insulator phase from the conducting disordered metal phase. Using tools from Random Matrix Theory we confirm that the energy level statistics of these biomolecules show the universal transitional distribution of the metal-insulator critical point and the wave functions are multifractals in accordance with the theory of Anderson transitions. The findings point to the existence of a universal mechanism of charge transport in living matter. The revealed bio-conductor material is neither a metal nor an insulator but a new quantum critical material which can exist only in highly evolved systems and has unique material properties."

Quantum criticality in biologic protein systems

by David Turell @, Saturday, January 12, 2019, 01:06 (330 days ago) @ David Turell

An article on the new interest in quantum mechanics in biologic systems. I've mentioned that photosynthesis shows quantum activity:


"An old and quirky collaboration between seemingly incompatible scientific fields is producing fascinating new insights into the nature of the living world.

"Meet the discipline known as “quantum biology”: the idea that the oddities of quantum mechanics such as entanglement, quantum tunnelling, superposition of wave states, the uncertainty principle and quantum coherence play vital roles in the biology of living things.


"Quantum biology is one such meeting point. And while it is producing remarkable and novel findings about olfaction, photosynthesis and the action of enzymes, the interdiscipline is as old as the quantum revolution itself.


"As early as 1929, Niels Bohr was making vague allusions to the role of quantum thinking in biology, and although such a vision was not yet fleshed out by Bohr himself....


"Bohr returned to the topic, too, this time arguing that complimentarity, or wave-particle duality (the idea that quantum objects act as both particles and waves, but never both at the same time) was the organicist “new law” that would uncover the mysteries of the living world. Together with Werner Heisenberg, Bohr wondered if such quantum phenomena played an undiscovered role in the mutation and selection of Darwinian evolution.

"In the 1940s Erwin Schrödinger argued that genes and the laws of heredity were sensitive to quantum mechanical dynamics and that the mutations necessary for natural selection arose through quantum tunnelling (the phenomena whereby subatomic particles can reach lower energy states by bypassing, or tunnelling through, intervening higher energy states).


" Several scientists kept thinking about the connection between quantum mechanics and life, however, with some, such as British mathematical physicist Roger Penrose, even drawing connections between the quantum world and consciousness. But for the most part, many of the early claims of quantum biology were discredited and the classical sciences remained dominant in biology.

"However, in the past few decades quantum biology has experiencing something of a revival. There is now, the authors state, “sound experimental evidence for quantum coherence in photosynthesis and quantum tunnelling in enzyme action; together with strong theoretical arguments and some experimental evidence supporting the role of quantum entanglement in avian navigation and quantum tunnelling in olfaction".

"There are also some tantalising findings to suggest that the “hot, wet and complex” biological systems, non-equilibrium systems fundamentally connected to their environment, might actually promote interesting quantum dynamics, rather than rule them out has had been thought in the sixties.

"The question has now become how quantum phenomena affect biology, rather than if they do. And given that evolution has had three and half billion years to devise ways to harness the oddities of quantum mechanics, there seems much for quantum biology to explore."

Comment: It will be fascinating. If teh vasis of reality is quantum mechanics, it has to have a basis in biology.

Quantum mechanics rule life

by David Turell @, Thursday, May 30, 2019, 05:42 (191 days ago) @ David Turell

The important Pauli exclusion principle:


"It might make you wonder how this occurs. How do atoms, made of atomic nuclei and electrons, which come in less than 100 varieties, give rise to the enormous diversity of molecules, objects, creatures and everything else we find? We owe the answer to one underappreciated quantum rule: the Pauli Exclusion Principle.

"Most of us barely give a second thought to the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which simply states that no two identical fermions can occupy the same exact quantum state in the same system.

"Big deal, right?

"Actually, it's not only a big deal; it's the biggest deal of all. When Niels Bohr first put out his model of the atom, it was simple but extremely effective. By viewing the electrons as planet-like entities that orbited the nucleus, but only at explicit energy levels that were governed by straightforward mathematical rules, his model reproduced the coarse structure of matter. As electrons transitioned between the energy levels, they emitted or absorbed photons, which in turn described the spectrum of each individual element.


"The Pauli Exclusion Principle — and the fact that we have the quantum numbers that we do in the Universe — is what gives each individual atom their own unique structure. As we add greater numbers of electrons to our atoms, we have to go to higher energy levels, greater angular momenta, and increasingly more complex orbitals to find homes for all of them. The energy levels work as follows:


"Each individual atom on the periodic table, under this vital quantum rule, will have a different electron configuration than every other element. Because it's the properties of the electrons in the outermost shells that determine the physical and chemical properties of the element it's a part of, each individual atom has its own unique sets of atomic, ionic, and molecular bonds that it's capable of forming.

"No two elements, no matter how similar, will be the same in terms of the structures they form. This is the root of why we have so many possibilities for how many different types of molecules and complex structures that we can form with just a few simple raw ingredients. Each new electron that we add has to have different quantum numbers than all the electrons before it, which alters how that atom will interact with everything else.

"The net result is that each individual atom offers a myriad of possibilities when combining with any other atom to form a chemical or biological compound. There is no limit to the possible combinations that atoms can come together in; while certain configurations are certainly more energetically favorable than others, a variety of energy conditions exist in nature, paving the way to form compounds that even the cleverest of humans would have difficulty imagining.

"But the only reason that atoms behave this way, and that there are so many wondrous compounds that we can form by combining them, is that we cannot put an arbitrary number of electrons into the same quantum state. Electrons are fermions, and Pauli's underappreciated quantum rule prevents any two identical fermions from having the same exact quantum numbers.

"If we didn't have the Pauli Exclusion Principle to prevent multiple fermions from having the same quantum state, our Universe would be extremely different. Every atom would have almost identical properties to hydrogen, making the possible structures we could form extremely simplistic. White dwarf stars and neutron stars, held up in our Universe by the degeneracy pressure provided by the Pauli Exclusion Principle, would collapse into black holes. And, most horrifically, carbon-based organic compounds — the building blocks of all life as we know it — would be an impossibility for us.

"The Pauli Exclusion Principle isn't the first thing we think of when we think of the quantum rules that govern reality, but it should be. Without quantum uncertainty or wave-particle duality, our Universe would be different, but life could still exist. Without Pauli's vital rule, however, hydrogen-like bonds would be as complex as it could get."

Comment: As usual quantum mechanics is at the base of our reality.

RSS Feed of thread
powered by my little forum