Tuesday, December 06, 2011

In the Mouth of the Whale 7 - Paul J. McAuley

"The Child was becoming very interested in photosynthesis. When Roberto had come back from his first semester at the Federal University of São Paulo, he'd shown her how the logic of quantum mechanics integrated with messy biochemistry at the point where light-harvesting centres transferred solar energy to the reaction centres that transformed it to biological energy. Struck by photons, the light-harvesting and reaction centres oscillated with wave-like behaviour, allowing the electrons that transferred energy between them to select the most efficient of all possible paths and minimise energy loss. And these wave-like properties also entangled centres that were not strongly coupled by oscillation, so that everything beat to the same pulse: the heartbeat of the sun. You could think of a field or a forest as a quantum computer, Roberto had said. Able to run every solution to a problem at once, and select the best – the fastest, the simplest – from a myriad entangled possibilities. The molecular couplings at the heart of artificial photosynthetic systems evoked the same kind of quantum entanglement, but were not yet as efficient as those in plants, algae, and photosynthetic bacteria."

3.5 out of 5