$3 Million Grant for Interdisciplinary Project on Time & Quantum Biology

An interdisciplinary team of scientists and philosophers has won a $3 million grant to support a project on time and quantum biology called “Life on the Edge.”

[Wassily Kandinsky, “Circles in a Circle” (detail)]

The team, led by Jim Al-Khalili and Andrea Rocco of Surrey University, includes, among others, philosophers Simon Saunders (Oxford), Karim Thébault (Bristol), Eddy Keming Chen (UCSD), scientists Clarice Aiello (UCLA), Paul Davies (Arizona State), and Chiara Marletto (Oxford).

Here’s their description of the project:

We will investigate the complex interrelationship between the nature of time and the distinct ways in which the passage of time and quantum physics manifest in inanimate objects compared to living organisms. Expanding the theoretical and philosophical frameworks used to understand the ‘arrow of time’ and reversibility, the project will encompass three theoretical investigations, an experimental approach using live cells, and a philosophical exploration of the deeper meanings of time.

The emerging field of quantum biology seeks to understand whether quantum mechanics plays a role in biological processes. There is growing evidence from recent research that phenomena such as photosynthesis, respiration, bird navigation—and even the way we think—are all influenced by quantum mechanics.

In ‘Life on the Edge’, we are exploring a key question in quantum biology. While time as we experience it only flows forwards, at the scale of quantum physics, time is reversible—with processes making just as much sense when viewed forward or backwards through time. However we also know that many complex processes are irreversible. How these irreversible processes emerge from smaller reversible building blocks is not fully understood, but may have implications for our understanding of life itself.

The $3 million grant is from the John Templeton Foundation.

You can learn more about the project here.

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2 years ago

These are the kinds of things that I live for. My personal feelings on this extraordinary theme of (Quantum) reality is that we will at some point discover that the “Quantum Field(s)” so arcane to our experience (including the experience of one Albert Einstein), will emerge and prove to be the true Holy Grail to science and the final word to our understanding of material reality. And since we are inextricably linked to material reality by way of the atom and its more fundamental properties, perhaps a better understanding of ourselves and our place in this incredible Universe we have found ourselves born to.

James Barlow
2 years ago

Time isn’t “reversible” because the past is nonexistent. See my “Time and Reality” requestable at [email protected]

David Hyder
2 years ago

I am surprised that respected working scientists would risk harm to their reputations by associating themselves with the John Templeton Foundation.