Thursday, December 4, 2014

Friday Thinking, 5 December 2014

Hello all –Friday Thinking is curated in the spirit of sharing. Many thanks to those who enjoy this. J

In the 1820's, the U.S., Japan, and the U.K. were some of the only countries where the average population received at least 2 years of formal schooling.
Today, ... the average length of study has skyrocketed. In most developed countries, the average person receives about 16 years of education. Even in developing countries, the population gets 5 to 8 years of education.

As education becomes dematerialized, demonetized and democratized, every man, woman and child on the planet will be able to reap the benefits of knowledge. We’re rapidly heading toward a world of education abundance.
Peter Diamandis - Evidence of Abundance #20: Global Education

In the second, constructive, move, we take a pass at trying to implement structures that will richly satisfy our needs ….  using our “toolkit from the future”. … I presented a heuristic for what these tools might look like:
  • Data aware: in principle all possible transactions are stored and searchable
  • Transparent: in principle all transactions can be viewed by all participants
  • Distributed: in principle no levels of hierarchy
  • Resilient: designed to maximize and benefit from “black swan” events rather than minimize and suffer from them.
  • Segmented. intrinsically difficult to capture
  • Transient. Beyond the basic resilient holon and stored data, every function or organization is built with the time or conditions that warrant its death built into the design/plan.

... how poorly our current institutions satisfy our real human needs. It’s not their fault, of course, they were invented a long time ago and have had a pretty darn good run. But over the decades they’ve suffered from what Joseph Tainter calls “decreasing returns to complexity”. Which is to say that their only response to any new challenge is “more of the same.” And “the same” isn’t working any more. What’s happening now is that rather than providing healthy, effective “satisfiers”, what our current model tends to provide is “pseudo-satisfiers” like social media that present themselves as satisfying needs, when they really don’t. Or, worse, “violators” like fast food that present themselves as satisfying needs when they really make things worse. It really is the toolkit itself that needs replacing.

It will take some care to construct a new social architecture that can detach from the old without devolving into darkness. Again, we don’t know the precise path, but we can venture some hypotheses:

The new system must run concurrently with the old in order to avoid inducing general collapse. To achieve this end:
  • It displaces due to choice and not force. Bit by bit and not all at once.
  • It can leverage mature services of the old system to gain capabilities rapidly and supplement deficits.
  • It must be able to defend itself against predation by the old system.
  • It replaces old system functions when able.
  • Connection to the new system is a function of desire/membership and a willingness to live by a set of rules, both at the individual level and at the level of the resilient community. Membership is not based on geography or accident of birth, it is earned through behavior.

Constructing this system will be no mean feat. At the same time, we should be reminded of the fact that our existing institutions are failing. In a very important sense, those ships have sailed. The crisis is upon us. Waiting and hoping that “things will work out” will be to no avail. Our construction of a New Society is as much a consequence of necessity as opportunity. The longer we wait the more the balance will move from opportunity to necessity.
Jordan Greenhall - Reinvent Everything

This is great news - and an indication of the inevitability of either disrupting yourself or being surprised when others disrupt you with better models.
Nature makes all articles free to view
Publisher permits subscribers and media to share read-only versions of its papers.

As they say change is happening so fast that tomorrow is already yesterday. Hence we can begin to think about the history of the future. This is an approach to thinking about the future by turning it into the past.
Why write a history of the 21st century?
There are still 18 years until the end of the century, and it may seem foolhardy for a mere human to attempt to analyse the data at our disposal.  After all, we're awash with information from every corner of the world, covering every second of the century. A thousand detailed histories of individuals and systems can be generated at the snap of a finger. And yet I believe that our century, as it draws to a close, demands not that we look at just the big picture but at the small details, on the scale at which human lives are lived. This has been an extraordinary epoch in the story of humanity.

Every century is extraordinary, of course. Some may be the bloodiest or the darkest; others encompass momentous social revolutions, or scientific advances, or religious and philosophical movements. The 21st century is different: it represents the first time in our history that we have truly had to question what it means to be human. It is the stories of our collective humanity that I hope to tell through the hundred objects in this book.

I tell the story of how we became more connected than ever before, with objects like Babel, Silent Messaging, the Nautilus-3, and the Brain Bubble — and how we became fragmented, both physically and culturally, with the Fourth Great Awakening, and the Biomes.

With the Braid Collective, the Loop, the Steward Medal, and the Rechartered Cities, we made tremendous steps forward on our long pursuit of greater equality and enlightenment — but the Locked Simulation Interrogations, the Sudan-Shanghai Letter, the Collingwood Meteor, and the Downvoted all showed how easy it was for us to lapse back into horror and atrocity.

Thinking about the future - this isn’t quite an object - but is a significant marker of change.
Finland: Typing takes over as handwriting lessons end
Finnish students will no longer be taught handwriting at school, with typing lessons taking its place, it's reported.
Learning joined-up writing, often in fountain pen in the UK, is almost a rite of passage for primary school students. But Finland is moving into the digital age by ditching the ink in favour of keyboards, the Savon Sanomat newspaper reports. From autumn 2016, students won't have to learn cursive handwriting or calligraphy, but will instead be taught typing skills, the report says. "Fluent typing skills are an important national competence," says Minna Harmanen from the National Board of Education. The switch will be a major cultural change, Ms Harmanen says, but typing is more relevant to everyday life.

There are some concerns that the move could disadvantage children who don't have a computer at home, or schools where there aren't enough computers to go around. But many people have welcomed the move. "For most teachers it's sufficient that upper case and lower case letters can be distinguished," says Susanna Huhta, deputy chairwoman of the Association of Native Language Teachers. However, she points out that handwriting helps children to develop fine motor skills and brain function, and suggests handwriting classes could be replaced by handicrafts and drawing. Social media users also see the positives, with one user on the Etela-Saimaa website saying: "Handwriting is a totally useless skill. Maybe not as useless as compulsory Swedish, but coming pretty close to it."

So in 200 years will we be even keyboarding anymore? Will there be a Brain/Mind interface with our world and communication devices? And here’s a fascinating question. The article is very short and the eight visions are worth the read.
How Will We Make Music in 200 Years?
A group of innovators were asked to imagine what music will be like in 2214. If they're right, it could be pretty bizarre
Music has gone through some serious changes in the past 200 years. Consider that back in 1814, Beethoven was cutting edge, and the year’s most famous song was not about love, but war, a tune titled "The Star-Spangled Banner." Yet as much as music has morphed since then, its transformation will seem trifling compared to what will likely happen to it over the next 200 years. The pace of technology guarantees it.

Sponsored by the popular energy drink, the Red Bull Music Academy is a month-long festival of concerts and workshops featuring innovators in music. The event has had a 16-year run and moves to a different city each time. As part of the 2014 event in Tokyo earlier this month, some of the more creative minds in music, art and technology were asked to share their takes on how we'll make music in 2214.  

The artists responded with a wide range of visions, some of them seeing music 200 years hence as an intensely personal, even physiological experience, although another one suggested that only machines will be around to hear it.
Here is the site of the project - be prepared to click around - worth the view.

It seems that Canada isn’t the only place that has a Government 2020 initiative - this one is from Deloitte - well worth the view. However, the 3 min video is a Must See.
Explore the Future of Government in 2020
At the heart of Gov2020 are two simple components—Drivers and Trends, each one written from the perspective of the year 2020.
Drivers are the factors that change the context in which government operates and serves citizens. - there are 39 Drivers.
Trends are the overall shifts that are likely—or at least possible—in 2020 across government domains. - there are 194 trends.
Driver-Trend Connections
The drivers and trends are intimately connected. Each driver has an associated set of trends and vice versa. So if you are interested in robotics, you can see all the ways robotics impacts government ranging from warfare to health care. Or if you want to understand what’s driving a trend like hyper-localized environmental monitoring, you can see it’s largely technology enablers such as sensors, geospatial and analytics.
The Future is Dynamic
Gov2020 is not just another website; it’s a living environment where the trends and drivers will be updated on a regular basis based on your input and changing circumstances in the world. Stay tuned!

Speaking about the future of government - it’s interesting to understand the past impact of government - The Graphic (Figure 7 mentioned below) summarizes a great deal and the whole article is included below the link.
The Surprising Role of Government Agencies Behind Apple’s Innovation
Apple should recognize that the knowledge base on which its success has been built can be traced back to government investments. As summarized in Figure 7 [the figure above] virtually every technology that one finds in an Apple iPod, iPhone, iPad touch originated in a government-run or government-funded investment project.

Hence a significant portion of Apple’s profits should be going back to the U.S government to provide returns to taxpayers for the investments that they have made in the past and to help fund further government investment in society’s knowledge base that will provide the foundation for the technologies of the future.

Speaking of the future and of innovation - this is a brilliant 11 min video on the need for design thinking. We want the same things from design as we want from other humans. Must view
Marty Neumeier's Innovation Workshop
A designer is anyone who devises ways to change existing situations into prefered ones.
The journey from traditional business thinking to "designful" thinking.
Good design is design that exhibits virtues including:
Responsibility, courage, honesty, substance, curiosity, thrift, helpfulness, wit….
Bad design exhibits vices including:
Selfishness, fear, deceit, pettiness, apathy, waste, harm, stupidity…..

Speaking of design thinking and technology - this is a surprisingly interesting 25 min video. All of the qualities of an innovator: the ability to trust, the ability to collaborate, the ability to Not Know where you are Going, these are all spiritual qualities.
Worth the listen - a very engaging speaker - disrupting the religious paradigm.
This Is Why Religion Is Just a Technology
This post is one of a series of conversations published on the Time website, authored by myself and Nicha Ratana, with transformational leaders who will be storytellers at the Business Innovation Factory (BIF10) Collaborative Innovation Summit in Providence, RI, on Sept. 17-18.

Irwin Kula is an eighth-generation rabbi known for his fearless attitude about change — a rare quality among religious leaders who tend to adhere closely to tradition.

The problem with most religious leadership, Kula claims, is that its mission is to convert the non-affiliated. “Religion is not about creed, dogma, or tribe,” he counters. “We need to stop judging our success by membership dues — this isn’t about how many hits. First and foremost, religion is a toolbox designed to help human beings flourish.”

Kula claims that he finds himself often at odds with the concept of “God” as commonly invoked in the American public arena. To him, this is the God of touchdowns and wars, an intervening God who “casts out” unless one “buys in.” “No religious or political system has a hold on being moral,” Kula says. “Systems are only as good as their people.”

His talk covered how the rapid advancements of the digital infrastructure age demand that we broaden our ethical horizons: What are the new crimes? In this new order, who is included and what are their rights? As we redefine morality, the need to innovate faith becomes especially pressing.

“The most interesting businesses ask ‘impact on society’ questions, which are more complex than ‘killer app success’ questions,” Kula reflects in hindsight. “At BIF, I asked, ‘What would happen if we applied innovation theory to religion, to compress the resources it takes to create good people?’”
There are quite a number of fascinating video presentations from the Business Innovation Factory Conference -

Speaking of re-linking and social media - here’s an important article about the want of intimacy - something that can be experienced in a crowd or with a spouse. Can the digital environment help in finding those we can connect with?
The Lethality of Loneliness
We now know how it can ravage our body and brain
Just as we once knew that infectious diseases killed, but didn’t know that germs spread them, we’ve known intuitively that loneliness hastens death, but haven’t been able to explain how. Psychobiologists can now show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack. They have proved that long-lasting loneliness not only makes you sick; it can kill you. Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer—tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people.

The psychological definition of loneliness hasn’t changed much since Fromm-Reichmann laid it out. “Real loneliness,” as she called it, is not what the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard characterized as the “shut-upness” and solitariness of the civilized. Nor is “real loneliness” the happy solitude of the productive artist or the passing irritation of being cooped up with the flu while all your friends go off on some adventure. It’s not being dissatisfied with your companion of the moment—your friend or lover or even spouse— unless you chronically find yourself in that situation, in which case you may in fact be a lonely person. Fromm-Reichmann even distinguished “real loneliness” from mourning, since the well-adjusted eventually get over that, and from depression, which may be a symptom of loneliness but is rarely the cause. Loneliness, she said—and this will surprise no one—is the want of intimacy.

Today’s psychologists accept Fromm-Reichmann’s inventory of all the things that loneliness isn’t and add a wrinkle she would surely have approved of. They insist that loneliness must be seen as an interior, subjective experience, not an external, objective condition. Loneliness “is not synonymous with being alone, nor does being with others guarantee protection from feelings of loneliness,” writes John Cacioppo, the leading psychologist on the subject. Cacioppo privileges the emotion over the social fact because—remarkably—he’s sure that it’s the feeling that wreaks havoc on the body and brain. Not everyone agrees with him, of course. Another school of thought insists that loneliness is a failure of social networks. The lonely get sicker than the non-lonely, because they don’t have people to take care of them; they don’t have social support.

To the degree that loneliness has been treated as a matter of public concern in the past, it has generally been seen as a social problem—the product of an excessively conformist culture or of a breakdown in social norms. Nowadays, though, loneliness is a public health crisis. The standard U.S. questionnaire, the UCLA Loneliness Scale, asks 20 questions that run variations on the theme of closeness—“How often do you feel close to people?” and so on. As many as 30 percent of Americans don't feel close to people at a given time.

Speaking about the future and connection - here’s something to think about the Internet of Things. Like electricity, natural gas, gasoline distribution systems - I’m sure the IoT will develop requisite security.
Coming soon: Murder by Internet
Security experts believe the Internet of Things will be used to kill someone
Imagine a fleet of quad copters or drones equipped with explosives and controlled by terrorists. Or someone who hacks into a connected insulin pump and changes the settings in a lethal way. Or maybe the hacker who accesses a building's furnace and thermostat controls and runs the furnace full bore until a fire is started.

Those may all sound like plot material for a James Bond movie, but there are security experts who now believe, as does Jeff Williams, CTO of Contrast Security, that "the Internet of Things will kill someone."

Williams, whose firm provides application security, doesn't know exactly how IoT might be used to kill someone or what device will be implicated in the nefarious scheme, but considers it a certainty that a connected device will play a role in a murder.

Similarly, Rashmi Knowles, chief security architect at RSA, said something similar in a recent blog post, imagining criminals hacking into medical devices and starting "a complete new economy" by blackmailing victims.

Maybe it won’t be real murder - just drama. Here’s something about the emergence of TV 3.0 in the next two years.
TV 3.0 is already here
Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe, when I worked for him 20 years ago, taught me that we tend to over-estimate change in the short term and under-estimate it in the long term. So it can be pretty obvious what is coming but not at all obvious when. And what we know about the when of it is that making money from new technologies is often a matter of investing right before that bend upward in the hockey stick of exponential change.

We all know television is bound to enter a new era sooner or later. Heck, I’ve written dozens of columns on the subject over my 17 years in this job. But this is the first time I feel confident in saying when this TV transition will take place. It already has. Forces are already in motion that will completely transform TV over the next 24 months. Come back two years from today and it will all be different with at least a few new leaders and a few icons gone bust. Get ready for TV 3.0.

TV 1.0, starting in the 1940s, was over-the-air television. If you lived in the U.S. there were generally three channels but that was enough to get us all to buy a TV and waste several hours per day watching it. Walter Cronkite was the God of broadcast TV.

TV 2.0 was cable, which relied on the installed base of TVs created by broadcast but expanded the programming to dozens and then hundreds of specialized channels piped in through a new terrestrial network. Cable could never have happened without broadcast happening first. Today in the U.S. local broadcast channels still exist (now generally 5-10 per major media market) but 85 percent of us receive even local broadcast channels through a cable or satellite connection. What keeps local broadcasters broadcasting, rather than becoming just local cable channels, is the value of the radio spectrum they own, which they’ll lose if they don’t continue to use it (more on this below). TV 2.0 deepened the markets for both content and advertising by allowing, for example, more adult channels as well as very localized (and significantly cheaper) commercials. HBO and CNN were the twin Gods of cable TV.

TV 3.0 is so-called Over-the-Top (OTT) television — streaming video services that rely on cheap Internet service. Pioneers in this field were Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube, each providing a different kind of service and using a different business model. This is continuing the trend of each TV generation building on the installed base of the one before. OTT television requires the extensive wired broadband networks built by the phone and cable companies.

Here is something for those of us who don’t understand physics - either relativity or quantum mechanics. Very entertaining and worth the watch.
Quantum Entanglement Documentary - Atomic Physics and Reality
Want to learn more about quantum entanglement?
A historical account from 1985 of the long standing debate between Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein regarding the validity of the quantum mechanical description of atomic phenomena and observation of quantum states with respect to the uncertainty principle and quantum entanglement . Starring some famous physicists, John Archibald Wheeler, John Stewart Bell, Alain Aspect, David Bohm and others. Interesting stuff.
© 1985 Jorlunde Film Denmark with sound editing (due to original file corruption) by Muon Ray

Speaking about entanglement - here’s a great introduction to complexity by David Pines, Co-Founder in Residence, Santa Fe Institute.
Emergence: A unifying theme for 21st century science
When electrons or atoms or individuals or societies interact with one another or their environment, the collective behavior of the whole is different from that of its parts. We call this resulting behavior emergent.Emergence thus refers to collective phenomena or behaviors in complex adaptive systems that are not present in their individual parts.

Examples of emergent behavior are everywhere around us, from birds flocking, fireflies synchronizing, ants colonizing, fish schooling, individuals self-organizing into neighborhoods in cities – all with no leaders or central control – to the Big Bang, the formation of galaxies and stars and planets, the evolution of life on earth from its origins until now, the folding of proteins, the assembly of cells, the crystallization of atoms in a liquid, the superconductivity of electrons in some metals, the changing global climate, or the development of consciousness in an infant.

Indeed, we live in an emergent universe in which it is difficult, if not impossible, to identify any existing interesting scientific problem or study any social or economic behavior that is not emergent.

The issue of control seems to know no bounds - here’s something that seems right out of 1984.
China bans wordplay in attempt at pun control
Officials say casual alteration of idioms risks nothing less than ‘cultural and linguistic chaos’, despite their common usage
From online discussions to adverts, Chinese culture is full of puns. But the country’s print and broadcast watchdog has ruled that there is nothing funny about them.

It has banned wordplay on the grounds that it breaches the law on standard spoken and written Chinese, makes promoting cultural heritage harder and may mislead the public – especially children.

The casual alteration of idioms risks nothing less than “cultural and linguistic chaos”, it warns.

Chinese is perfectly suited to puns because it has so many homophones. Popular sayings and even customs, as well as jokes, rely on wordplay. But the order from the State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television says: “Radio and television authorities at all levels must tighten up their regulations and crack down on the irregular and inaccurate use of the Chinese language, especially the misuse of idioms.”

In the field of algorithmic intelligence - there is some ‘magical’ stuff emerging. The picture illustrating a result is the article are very interesting.
How Google "Translates" Pictures Into Words Using Vector Space Mathematics
Google engineers have trained a machine learning algorithm to write picture captions using the same techniques it developed for language translation.
Translating one language into another has always been a difficult task. But in recent years, Google has transformed this process by developing machine translation algorithms that change the nature of cross cultural communications through Google Translate.

Now that company is using the same machine learning technique to translate pictures into words. The result is a system that automatically generates picture captions that accurately describe the content of images. That’s something that will be useful for search engines, for automated publishing and for helping the visually impaired navigate the web and, indeed, the wider world.

The conventional approach to language translation is an iterative process that starts by translating words individually and then reordering the words and phrases to improve the translation. But in recent years, Google has worked out how to use its massive search database to translate text in an entirely different way.

The approach is essentially to count how often words appear next to, or close to, other words and then define them in an abstract vector space in relation to each other. This allows every word to be represented by a vector in this space and sentences to be represented by combinations of vectors.

Here’s a nice view of one of the possibilities of the future of 3D printing.
3-D-Printing Bio-Electronic Parts
With new “inks” containing semiconductors, researchers have been able to print LEDs for the first time.
A 3-D printer can already make a prototype or spare part out of metal or polymer. Researchers at Princeton University have now taken an important step toward expanding the technology’s potential by developing a way to print functioning electronic circuitry out of semiconductors and other materials. They are also refining ways to combine electronics with biocompatible materials and even living tissue, which could pave the way for exotic new implants.

With cartridges full of semiconductor “inks,” it should be possible to print circuits for all sorts of tasks, says Michael McAlpine, an assistant professor at Princeton, who led the work. To demonstrate the feat, the researchers printed a light-emitting diode within a contact lens.

The processors and display circuitry inside a computer don’t lend themselves to 3-D printing, because they require many complex components fabricated on the nanoscale. But it could be used to make medical devices or implants that incorporate electronics. Researchers might, for example, print a scaffold for growing nerve tissues, says McAlpine. And if they could also print LEDs and circuits within the scaffold, the light could stimulate the nerves, and the electronics could be used to interface with a prosthetic arm, he suggests.

Last year, McAlpine  used 3-D-printing to make a “bio-electronic” ear (see “Cyborg Parts”). The ear was made from living cells, with a supportive matrix of gooey hydrogel; it also had conductive ink, made from a suspension of silver nanoparticles, which formed an electrical coil that could receive radio signals.

And some more recent advances - this is a 2 min video.
3D Printing of Liquid Metals at Room Temperature
Researchers at NC State have developed a way to print liquid metals into 3D structures at room temperature. The structures are stabilized by a thin oxide 'skin' that forms on the liquid metal. The approaches shown here represent new ways to direct write metals in 3D. In addition, the resulting components can, in principle, self-heal ( "Self-healing stretchable wires" and be ultra-stretchable ( "Ultra-stretchable wires"

The paper, "3D Printing of Free Standing Liquid Metal Microstructures," is published online in Advanced Materials. For more information, visit

The work was supported by the National Science Foundation.

On the Robotics and Prosthetics front this is a lengthy article, with a 3 min video that demonstrates recent advances on robotic grip.
Inexpensive, Durable Plastic Hands Let Robots Get a Grip
This rubber-jointed hand can pick up a telephone and use a drill
The human hand is one of nature’s marvels—and a stupendous challenge to engineers who would replicate it. It’s an intricate assemblage with 29 flexible joints and thousands of specialized nerve endings, overseen by a control system so sensitive that it can instantly indicate how hot an object is, how smooth its surface is, and even how firmly it should be grasped.

No wonder, then, that creating robot hands with even a fraction of human capabilities has proved an elusive goal. But increasingly, researchers are concluding that copying nature is not the right approach in this case. The better idea is to decide which of the hand’s critical functions are to be emulated and how this can best be accomplished with the technologies now available.

Industrial robots have, of course, been manipulating objects for decades. But these generally employ simple parallel-jaw grippers that open and close on command to grasp, hold, or move a single type of object that they’ve been specifically programmed to handle. That inflexibility isn’t a problem on the assembly line, but it won’t suffice for future robots designed to interact with people in a much less structured environment.

Talking about the domestication of DNA - this may seem like a creepy presaging of the Rise of the Planet of the Mice.
Mice with half-human brains four times smarter than their peers: scientists
According to a paper published in the latest Journal of Neuroscience, scientists have successfully injected human glial cells — which support the communication between neurons — into mouse brains, creating hybrid mice four times smarter than their peers.

Steve Goldman and his team extracted glial cells from donated fetuses and injected them into mice. Within a year, the mouse glial cells had been significantly displaced by the human. Glial cells — in this case, astrocytes — strengthen the synapses. The average human astrocyte is 10 to 20 times larger and has 100 times as many tendrils as a mouse astrocyte.

“We could see the human cells taking over the whole space,” Goldman told New Scientist. “It seemed like the mouse counterparts were fleeing to the margins.” The human cells only stopped when they reached the physical limit of the mouse’s cranial capacity.

In memory tests, the mice with humanized brains did four times better than their peers. “These are whopping effects,” Goldman said. “We can say they were statistically and significantly smarter than control mice.”

And if domestication of DNA seems challenging - here’s another frontier that may soon be coming to the neuro-sciences near you. The article is downloadable as a pdf as well.
Physics of life: The dawn of quantum biology
The key to practical quantum computing and high-efficiency solar cells may lie in the messy green world outside the physics lab.
On the face of it, quantum effects and living organisms seem to occupy utterly different realms. The former are usually observed only on the nanometre scale, surrounded by hard vacuum, ultra-low temperatures and a tightly controlled laboratory environment. The latter inhabit a macroscopic world that is warm, messy and anything but controlled.
A quantum phenomenon such as 'coherence', in which the wave patterns of every part of a system stay in step, wouldn't last a microsecond in the tumultuous realm of the cell.
Or so everyone thought. But discoveries in recent years suggest that nature knows a few tricks that physicists don't: coherent quantum processes may well be ubiquitous in the natural world. Known or suspected examples range from the ability of birds to navigate using Earth's magnetic field to the inner workings of photosynthesis — the process by which plants and bacteria turn sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into organic matter, and arguably the most important biochemical reaction on Earth.

Biology has a knack for using what works, says Seth Lloyd, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. And if that means "quantum hanky-panky", he says, "then quantum hanky-panky it is". Some researchers have even begun to talk of an emerging discipline called quantum biology, arguing that quantum effects are a vital, if rare, ingredient of the way nature works. And laboratory physicists interested in practical technology are paying close attention. "We hope to be able to learn from the quantum proficiency of these biological systems," says Lloyd. A better understanding of how quantum effects are maintained in living organisms could help researchers to achieve the elusive goal of quantum computation, he says. "Or perhaps we can make better energy-storage devices or better organic solar cells."

And in the same line of thinking.
Are we ready for quantum biology?
For 15 years, theoretical physicist Jim Al-Khalili and molecular geneticist Johnjoe McFadden have been discussing how quantum physics, the science of the incredibly small, might affect biology.

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