From tunneling to entanglement, the special properties of the quantum realm allow events to unfold at speeds and efficiencies that would be unachievable with classical physics alone. Could quantum mechanisms be driving some of the most elegant and inexplicable processes of life? For years experts doubted it: Quantum phenomena typically reveal themselves only in lab settings, in vacuum chambers chilled to near absolute zero. Biological systems are warm and wet. Most researchers thought the thermal noise of life would drown out any quantum weirdness that might rear its head.
One of the most significant quantum observations in the life sciences comes from Fleming and his collaborators. Their study of photosynthesis in green sulfur bacteria, published in 2007 in Nature [subscription required], tracked the detailed chemical steps that allow plants to harness sunlight and use it to convert simple raw materials into the oxygen we breathe and the carbohydrates we eat. Specifically, the team examined the protein scaffold connecting the bacteria’s external solar collectors, called the chlorosome, to reaction centers deep inside the cells. Unlike electric power lines, which lose as much as 20 percent of energy in transmission, these bacteria transmit energy at a staggering efficiency rate of 95 percent or better.
To unearth the bacteria’s inner workings, the researchers zapped the connective proteins with multiple ultrafast laser pulses. Over a span of femtoseconds, they followed the light energy through the scaffolding to the cellular reaction centers where energy conversion takes place.
This is a very intriguing theory. Biologists have been studying the process of photosynthesis for generations and have yet come up with a plausible explanation as to why it is as efficient as it is. They know the chemical process that produces and powers it, but not the extraordinary speed in which it operates.
Also the article goes on to postulate the sense of smell and consciousness might have at their core a quantum component.
The article doesn’t claim to have the last word on the nature of these things, but the quantum world is the foundation on which all things are built.
That is fact.
Whither dark matter?
Newton’s theory is questioned by many modern cosmologists, whose competing theories of gravitation seek to explain the large number of discrepancies between actual measurements of astronomical phenomena and predictions that are made using theoretical models. The idea that ‘dark matter’ might be behind these inconsistencies has enjoyed much attention in recent years. However, proof of its existence is incipient.
In this latest research, Professor Kroupa and colleagues examined ‘satellite dwarf galaxies’, which, according to theoretical models, exist in the hundreds around most of the major galaxies, including the Milky Way. Some of these smaller galaxies are thought to contain only a few thousand stars (by comparison, the Milky Way, for instance, is estimated to contain more than 200 billion stars).
However, to date, only 30 dwarf satellite galaxies have been observed around the Milky Way. This large discrepancy is commonly attributed to the fact that they have few stars, which makes them too dim to be seen from so far away. But their detailed study has yielded some surprising results.
‘First of all, there is something unusual about their distribution,’ said Professor Kroupa. ‘The satellites should be uniformly arranged around their mother galaxy, but this is not what we found.’
The researchers found that all of the Milky Way’s ‘classical satellites’ (the 11 brightest dwarf galaxies) are located on approximately the same plane, forming a kind of disc. They also observed that most of the 11 galaxies rotate in the same direction around the Milky Way, in much the same way as planets revolve around the Sun.
The physicists’ explanation for these phenomena is that the satellites must have been created through collisions amongst younger galaxies. ‘The fragments produced by such an event can form rotating dwarf galaxies,’ explained Dr Manuel Metz, also of the Argelander Institute for Astronomy. However, he added, ‘theoretical calculations tell us that the satellites created cannot contain any dark matter’.
I don’t know about what most thinking folks take is on dark matter. In IMHO it’s a “cover” giving term encompassing phenomenon that mainstream astrophysicists have no idea what the hell it’s about, much like the all purpose term “ether” was during the 19th Century.
Oh sure, there’s photos of “stuff” the various scientific satellites have taken over the years that “might” be dark matter, but the jury is still out on most of them.
Maybe this is the start of a rethinking of the “standard model” of the Cosmos that uses gravity as its building block?