Schrödinger's microbe: implications of coercing a living organism into a coherent quantum mechanical state

Bull, J and Gordon, A 2015, 'Schrödinger's microbe: implications of coercing a living organism into a coherent quantum mechanical state', Biology and Philosophy, vol. 30, no. 6, pp. 845-856.

Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

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Title Schrödinger's microbe: implications of coercing a living organism into a coherent quantum mechanical state
Author(s) Bull, J
Gordon, A
Year 2015
Journal name Biology and Philosophy
Volume number 30
Issue number 6
Start page 845
End page 856
Total pages 12
Publisher Springer
Abstract Consideration of the experimental activities carried out in one discipline, through the lens of another, can lead to novel insights. Here, we comment from a biological perspective upon experiments in quantum mechanics proposed by physicists that are likely to feasible in the near future. In these experiments, an entire living organism would be knowingly placed into a coherent quantum state for the first time, i.e. would be coerced into demonstrating quantum phenomena. The implications of the proposed experiment for a biologist depend to an extent upon the outcomes. If successful (i.e. quantum coherence is achieved and the organism survives after returning to a normal state), then the organism will have been temporarily in a state where it has an unmeasurable metabolism-not because a metabolic rate is undetectable, but because any attempt to measure it would automatically bring the organism out of the state. We argue that this would in essence represent a new category of cryptobiosis. Further, the organism would not necessarily retain all of the characteristics commonly attributed to living systems, unlike the currently known categories of cryptobiosis. If organisms can survive having previously been in a coherent state, then we must accept that living systems do not necessarily need to remain in a decoherent state at all times. This would be something new to biologists, even if it might seem trivial to physicists. It would have implications concerning the physical extremes organisms can tolerate, the search for extraterrestrial life, and our philosophical view of animation.
Subject Physical Sciences not elsewhere classified
Keyword(s) Coherence
Living organism
DOI - identifier 10.1007/s10539-015-9500-4
Copyright notice © Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015
ISSN 0169-3867
Additional Notes This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Biology and Philosophy. The final authenticated version is available online at:
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