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Science AMA Series: We are Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili, professors of biology and physics respectively at the University of Surrey in the UK and joint authors of ‘Life on the Edge’. We are here
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We got interested in the idea that quantum mechanics is involved in biology nearly two decades ago when Johnjoe was puzzling over weird kind of mutations that seemed to become more frequent when they provided an advantage to bacteria, and teamed up with Jim to see if quantum mechanics might provide an explanation. We wrote a paper describing a quantum model for the mutations back in 1999 (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0303264799000040) and have since maintained an interest in all aspects of quantum biology. The field exploded about a decade ago when microbes and plants were shown to use quantum coherence in photosynthesis and enzymes were found to use quantum tunnelling to accelerate biochemical reactions. Evidence for quantum effects has since turned up in avian navigation, the sense of smell, even how the mind works. We believe that biology’s connection to the quantum realm provides life with the spark that makes us so different from the inanimate world. To describe this fascinating new field we recently teamed up again to write, ‘Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology’. We are here today to talk about our own work and interests in the field of quantum biology but also the fascinating work of our colleagues who have discovered weird quantum effects in such a diverse range of biological activities. We’ll do our best to answer any relevant fundamental quantum or biology questions, such as what is quantum entanglement or how do enzyme work. We are also happy to speculate on how revolutionary quantum biology technologies may be developed from these ground-breaking discoveries. We hope to stimulate interest in what, we believe, is the most exciting emerging science of the 21st century! We will be back at 1 pm ET to answer your questions, ask us anything!