Birds are perhaps one of the oldest subjects of human study. From marvelling at their effortless flight to mapping their transcontinental journeys – with the advance of scientific progress, we have gained ever deeper insights into their biology. One of the most recent discoveries now shows yet another astonishing facet: quantum mechanisms at work in the eyes of certain bird species may underlie their ability to navigate along the earth’s magnetic field. The plant world is also revealing quantum secrets, as new probes reveal that the highly efficient conversion of sunlight to electronic energy in photosynthesis also relies on a quantum dynamics. UC Berkeley professor Birgitta Whaley, one of the leading figures in the relatively young field of quantum biology, explores phenomena like these, happening at the intersection of quantum physics, chemistry and life sciences. This intersection has been recognized since the 1940s, when Erwin Schrödinger published a book on bio-physics titled What is Life?, but it was only in the last decade that researchers have made a number of ground breaking discoveries on quantum systems active in living organisms such as plants and bacteria. By studying the underlying mechanisms, they hope to gain clues for designing highly efficient “biological” quantum devices. At Falling Walls, Birgitta demonstrates the status quo of quantum biology studies and the possibilities they unleash for organic quantum technologies of the future.
Birgitta Whaley is Director of the Quantum Information and Computation Center and Professor of Chemistry at University of California, Berkeley. In her research she focuses on quantum information, quantum computation, macroscopic quantum systems and quantum control/simulation. Prior to Berkeley, she was a Golda Meir Fellow at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and a post-doctoral fellow at Tel Aviv University. Today, she is a leading expert in the relatively young field of quantum biology, studying phenomena at the intersection of quantum physics, chemistry and life sciences.
At Falling Walls, she demonstrates the status quo of quantum biology studies and the possibilities they unleash for organic quantum technologies of the future