Darpa Looks to Tap Nature’s Quantum Effects
(Wired) For years, some scientists have suspected that quantum mechanics might have a little something to do with biological processes. Now, over a year after they first announced plans to look into quantum effects in biology, the Pentagon’s far-out research arm is asking for research and prototypes that may help harness that knowledge.
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Researchers have already established several biological realms that seem governed by quantum mechanics. For example, they already know that photosynthesis, one example of nature’s incredible efficiency, is ruled by quantum energy transfers. Energy “simultaneously samples” potential routes, and opts for the most efficient one to get the job done. Now, Darpa wants even more examples that demonstrate “tantalizing evidence” of biological systems that “operate using ‘manifestly’ quantum effects.”
That’s part one. Darpa also wants developers to develop a prototype of a biomimetic sensor that mimics some of biology’s most impressive quantum phenomena.
Lockheed Martin, for one, are already hard at work on the possibility of a quantum radar that could spot IEDs through soil or the walls of underground bunkers, see through camouflage, and even take down stealth planes. Right now, that patented science remains conceptual. But it sounds like Darpa’s ready to invest in the potential applications.
For now, they’re after high-performance sensors. But if and when quantum biology takes off, the possibilities — beyond quantum computing — seem endless. In Quantum Evolution, molecular biologist Johnjoe McFadden hypothesized that certain DNA mutations exhibit signs of intelligent quantum calculation. So it might only be a matter of time before Darpa gets its hands on the meaning of life, or at least some mathematical version of it.