The main purpose of this research was to find out if some phenomena of quantum mechanics, such as the entanglement, could exist in living organisms.
To answer this, we must first understand what quantum entanglement is.
Quantum Entanglement and the Speed of Light
Imagine that there are two particles (each of which can be in one of two states) and they are put in a state where there is a strong correlation. The state of the first particle depends on the state of the other, and that correlation will hold, even when there is a long distance between them.
There exist some specific methods for generating entanglement, and it has been speculated that every particle has the potential to create entanglement with other particles.
When two entangled photons are generated, and then, separated by a great distance, it is possible to learn information about the state of one by measuring the state of the other. So, it has been speculated, in the past, that communication faster than the speed of light can be achieved.
Scientists explaining the concept of quantum entanglement. (Source: PBS Space Time/YouTube)
It would be a huge achievement to prove that quantum phenomena, like entanglement, occurs in living organisms.
The Science of the Future
According to a report by Scientific American, quantum physicist, Chiara Marletto, who led the Oxford study, said, “Our models show that this phenomenon being recorded is a signature of entanglement between light and certain degrees of freedom inside the bacteria.”
Green sulfur bacteria, the species that Cole’s team used, are the Earth’s natural photosynthesis-powered creatures; like the leaves on a tree, these little organisms absorb light and then convert it to energy. The scientists of this study wanted to demonstrate quantum activity in these bacteria, so the microorganisms were placed between two mirrors and fired with a photon of light.
In this experiment, some of the light interacted with parts of the bacteria in a way that indicated that entanglement had occurred. Therefore, the scientists observed that the photons did not follow the rules of classical physics. A look at the energy levels in the setup have suggested that the bacteria may have become entangled, as some individual photons seem to have simultaneously interacted with and missed the bacterium at the same time.
Creating quantum entanglement in bacteria has been called a ‘quantum biology milestone’ by physicists. (Image Source: Outerplaces)
If this research can be validated, then it would be the first time that a form of life (not even ‘artificial life’) has operated inside the quantum world, a phenomenon usually limited to subatomic particles.
It’s Not Irrationality, It’s Quantum Mechanics!
This work has been referred to as "Schrodinger’s Bacterium."
The reference becomes from the famous thought-experiment by Professor Erwin Schrodinger in 1935, known as Schrodinger’s Cat. In this experiment, there is a cat inside a box, which has the probability of being alive or dead. Both possibilities have potential because of which the cat can be dead and alive at the same time.
This effect is called quantum superposition. When the box is opened, both possibilities are no longer superimposed, and the cat must be either alive or dead.
Whenever there are theories that are not consistent with classical theories, we often label it as 'irrational.' But from the perspective of quantum physics, some findings aren't irrational. They're consistent with the quantum theory and with how people really behave or think.
Quantum physics deals with the ambiguity in the physical world. The state of a particular particle, the energy it contains, its location is all uncertain and have to be calculated in terms of probabilities.
“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” ― Albert Einstein
Top Image: Researchers have observed quantum entanglement in living organisms, i.e., bacteria, for the first time ever. (Image Source: Seth Dennon/Flickr)
1. Tristan Greene, 2018. Physicists might have created quantum entanglement in bacteria [Online] Available at: https://thenextweb.com/science/2018/10/29/physicists-might-have-created-quantum-entanglement-in-bacteria/
2. Living Organisms May Have Been Put in Quantum Entanglement For First Time, Study Claims, 2018 [Online] Available at: https://aus.remonews.com/living-organisms-may-have-been-put-in-quantum-entanglement-for-first-time-study-claims/
3. Chad Orzel, 2018. How Do You Create Quantum Entanglement? [Online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/chadorzel/2017/02/28/how-do-you-create-quantum-entanglement/#10b0bd861732
4. Dan Robitzki, 2018. Living Organisms May Have Been Put in Quantum Entanglement For First Time, Study Claims [Online] Available at: https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-may-have-put-microbes-in-a-state-of-quantum-entanglement