Monday, October 12, 2015
Facts for Fiction: Life on the Edge
I'm in the middle of reading Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology. Life obviously takes place on a scale well above where you think quantum effects (such as electron tunneling) would take place. However, many chemical reactions vital for life require quantum effects to work. For example, the book starts off discussing how migrating robins sense the magnetic field of the earth to determine where they are in relation to the equator. The molecules robins use to sense the magnetic field depend on quantum entanglement to work. Quantum effects also play a effect on the sense of smell, DNA replication, and possibly even consciousness. If you're not familiar with quantum mechanics, don't worry; the author explains the concepts involved in each chapter. Quantum biology is a relatively new field. Although the mechanisms discussed in this book may seem too mundane to be worthy topics of speculative fiction, the book may still be useful for writers. (Unfortunately, living beings contain so many particles that as a whole, it would be nearly impossible to put all of them into a quantum state at once. I do play with this idea somewhat in Twinned Universes, so in the next story, I may have to tweak how the quantum quirk works.) If you like both physics and biology, you'll like this book.