Quantum emergence of life

consciousnessQuantum Mechanics and Emergence

Seth Lloyd

In:  Quantum Aspects of Life  –  Eds. Derek Abbott, Paul Davies & Arun Pati   Imperial College Press   ISBN:  13: 978-1-84816-267-9

Quantum mechanics is regarded as having two features important for the emergence of a complex system such as life. First it is digital or discrete, in the sense of being composed of a finite number of distinguishable states. The second is randomness. Taking these two features together is interpreted to mean that the universe as described in quantum mechanics is an information processor or a computer that is programmed by quantum fluctuations.

Each discrete unit described by quantum mechanics is envisaged as a computing bit that represents the distinction between 0 and 1 or between yes and no. The spin of an electron or the polarisation of a photon can be regarded as a bit. At the sub-atomic level, bits are referred to as quantum bits or qubits. The interaction between these qubits can be regarded as a computation. Quantum mechanical interactions form the basis of chemistry, which is seen as representing a further layer of computing related to life forms.

The randomness of quantum mechanics is apparent when a measurement is made, or when interaction with one of many features in the environment causes a particle to decohere. As an example a photon passing through a filter, such as the lens of a pair of sunglasses will decohere from a superposition of polarisations to a particular polarisation. Bits are also seen as a measure of entropy, with entropy proportional to the number of bits in a system as registered by quantum particles.

The author remarks that at the Big bang, the universe was in a simple state, and that the laws of physics that have governed its development since then are also simple. He argues from the fact that in a computer when 0s and 1s are generated randomly, if any programme is generated, it is more likely to be a short programme than a long programme, but it is argued that short programmes might be more suitable to eventually produce the complexity of life.

Lloyd rounds off by arguing that complexity cannot derive from computation by itself, but also requires the variation which is introduced by the randomness of quantum mechanics. The superpositions of quantum mechanics reflect or explore all possibilities at once. The article thus seems to imply, although it does not specifically argue for, the idea of a quantum search engine that would eventually hit on the right sequence of molecules to produce a replicator.


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  1. Georgi says:

    The origin of life can be explained through the study of thermodynamics of universe evolution!

    Origin of life and its evolution are the result of action of laws of hierarchical thermodynamics.
    Thermodynamics investigates systems which can be characterized by state functions. The separation of biological systems into individual hierarchies of structures allows us to study the processes in them independently of the processes that take place in other hierarchical structures.

    Criterion of evolution
    The approval about the reduction of the entropy of living systems as a result of biological evolution is incorrect. The criterion of evolution of living system is the change (during evolution) of the specific free energy (Gibbs function, G) of this living system. The evolution of living system takes place against the background of flows of energy (e.g., light, energy of physical fields) from the environment. It increases its specific free energy. At the same time, the specific free energy of this living system is decreased as a result of spontaneous processes in this system.
    Thus, the total change in the specific free energy of a living system is composed of two parts: 1. The change of free energy due to the inflow of external energy (G1> 0) and 2. The change of free energy due to spontaneous transformations in the system (G2 < 0) . The evolving system constantly adapts to a changing environment. The principle of substance stability contributes to this adaptation.
    Thermodynamics of evolution obeys the generalized equation of Gibbs (that is the generalized equation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics)*. Biological evolution and the processes of origin of life are well described by the hierarchical thermodynamics, established on the firm foundation of theory of JW Gibbs. Our theory created without the notion on dissipative structures of I. Prigogine and negentropy of L. Boltzmann and E. Schrodinger.
    “Thermodynamics serves as a basis for optimal solutions of the tasks of physiology, which are solved by organisms in the characteristic process of life: evolution, development, homeostasis, and adaptation. It is stated that the quasi-equilibrium thermodynamics of quasi-closed complex systems serves as an impetus of evolution, functions, and activities of all levels of biological systems’ organization. This fact predetermines the use of Gibbs’ methods and leads to a hierarchical thermodynamics in all spheres of physiology. The interaction of structurally related levels and sub-levels of biological systems is determined by the thermodynamic principle of substance stability. Thus, life is accompanied by a thermodynamic optimization of physiological functions of biological systems. Living matter, while functioning and evolving, seeks the minimum of specific Gibbs free energy of structure formation at all levels. The spontaneous search of this minimum takes place with participation of not only spontaneous, but also non-spontaneous processes, initiated by the surrounding environment.”
    Works of the author: http://endeav.net/news.html http://gladyshevevolution.wordpress.com/ http://www.mdpi.org/ijms/papers/i7030098.pdf http://ru.scribd.com/doc/87069230/Report-Ok-16-11-2011

    Georgi Gladyshev
    Professor of Physical Chemistry

    *) The generalized equation of Gibbs (See: http://creatacad.org/?id=57&lng=eng
    http://gladyshevevolution.wordpress.com/article/thermodynamic-theory-of-evolution-of-169m15f5ytneq-3/ )

    P.S. Lastly, it is important to take into account, from the viewpoint of hierarchical thermodynamics, that anti-aging diets and many drugs can be used for the prophylaxis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and for numerous other illnesses.

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