– In 2019, tardigrades were sent to the moon on an Israeli lander – the car crashed and unfortunately we don’t know how lunar tardigrades travel. Scientists on Earth have tried to simulate this situation in order to investigate their possibility of survival – says Thomas Patrick.
Photo: rf123 / Eraxion
The experiment took 2.5 weeks. There were many such experiments, each with a single organism, and for only one time was it possible to return tardigrades to an active state. The key is to cool down a bit and then warm up the tardigrades. It shows that we are dealing with a large change in temperature and a large change in pressure Doctor Hub. Thomas Patrick From the Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics University of Gdanskwho participated in the international research on quantum entanglement of tardigrades.
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A few months ago, popular science headlines focused on reports from an international group of scientists who report that a tiny creature – tardigrades has survived quantum entanglement. I’ve also been involved in the experiment, but before we get to quantum physics itself, I’d like to ask why tardigrades?
Dr. Love. Thomas Patrick: – To have a chance of surviving the conditions in which we normally observe quantum phenomena (extremely cold, very vacuum), you need a truly unique organism. We’ve known for a long time that tardigrades have unique traits related to their endurance. In 2007, it was sent into space into low Earth orbit and it was found that these multicellular microorganisms survived in a vacuum. (The same experiment showed that cosmic rays were deadly.) In 2019, tardigrades were sent to the moon on an Israeli lander – the car crashed and unfortunately we don’t know how lunar tardigrades work. Scientists on Earth have tried to simulate this situation to investigate their survival prospects.
Returning to the question – tardigrades are complex multicellular creatures – they have eight legs, live in water, and eat, among other things. algae; Their trick is that under unfavorable conditions, they break down their body in the form of a spore and limit the metabolism to a minimum. Scientists were able to bring tardigrades back to life, which had been in this spore state for 120 years. Other researchers have succeeded in resurrecting tardigrades that have been frozen for 30 years in Antarctica. The point is that organisms are sensitive to radiation and, while sealed, do not have major problems with very low temperatures and very low pressures.
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Why is a physicist interested in living things?
I deal with quantum mechanics on a daily basis, and for 10 years I have been researching the possibility of quantum effects in animals. This field of science is called quantum biology. For example, I am interested in magnetic reception. How do animals feel the magnetic field of the Earth? Robins, for example, uses this information when touring. Magnetic materials have been found in the living things of many birds, so it can be assumed that magnetic sensory impressions come at least in part from the rotation of tiny magnetic needles (physics shows that even magnetic nanoparticles are able to act like compasses in the Earth’s magnetic field and can fit into the magnetic field). easily with the cell.). However, it is doubtful that only the nanocompass is responsible for magnetic sense. Experiments with Robins show that magnetic sense also depends on light! In the dark and in the red light, the birds get confused. This indicates that minimal energy is required to induce this activity. It sparked my interest and still takes me today.
When it comes to tardigrades, it’s a good idea to start with some experience with bacteria from the bottom of the water that have developed light-sensitive antennas – the life of these bacteria depends on individual photons. Scientists have shown that if we place bacteria in a microscopic gap, we see a strong interaction between light and the bacteria’s antennae. In some models, this strong interaction translates into quantum entanglement. In quantum mechanics, objects explore many alternative realities simultaneously. If this exploration concerns several particles, it is called quantum entanglement. In this case, the number of photons is entangled with the vibrations of electric charges in the antennas of the bacteria. For example, two photons make the charge vibrate in one direction, and 10 photons cause the charge to vibrate differently, and these two possibilities are simultaneously explored. It also turned out that the bacteria were alive during the experiment, and it was examined using a substance that only penetrated dead cells.
The possibility of observing quantum effects in a living organism is remarkable, however, the light used in this experiment did not have any quantum features, so the entire presented model can be called into question. In our experience, we wanted to use an undoubtedly quantitative system and, by the way, a more complex multicellular organism. Naturally, the choice fell on tardigrades.
We are talking about introducing an organism to a place with extremely low pressure and temperature. Doesn’t this require extraordinary measures? How do we know we are dealing with quantum mechanics?
The simplest quantum system is undoubtedly the so-called quantum bit. My colleagues from Singapore have a lab and hardware that enables the production, control, and analysis of quantum qubits. In their case, it is an electrical system consisting of an appropriately selected capacitor and inductance. It turns out that two energy levels (“0” and “1”) are sufficient to describe the device at low temperature (10 mK) and low pressure (a billion times less than atmospheric pressure) and the experiment can set up a simultaneous exploration of the levels “0” and 1” the only way To explain the behavior of such a system is through the quantum method. Intuitively, you can think that level ‘0’ corresponds to an uncharged capacitor, level ‘1’ corresponds to the electric charge that oscillates in the system, and the quantum comes when you explore these two possibilities at the same time.
What exactly happened with the poor slow deceleration?
Nieporczak is placed in a spore form between the capacitor plates of one (upper) of two qubits (typical quantum terms for quantum bits). In the experiment, we do not have access to the delay itself, but the quantum bit has a certain frequency at which it oscillates and we can measure this quantity. Before placing the organism, the frequencies of each of the qubits were characterized, and after the introduction of tardigrades, we measured the frequencies of the upper compact system and lower qubits separately. It turns out that the upper system frequency has decreased, while the lower qubit has not changed. This illustrates the interaction between tardigrades and qubits. We are not talking about entanglement at this point – it is not necessary that the described interaction would require a simultaneous exploration of different possibilities. Indeed, Faraday has already shown that electric charges occur in materials placed in an electric field, which affects the properties of the capacitor and, as a result, translates into an observed frequency change.
The second stage of the experiment consists in using an appropriate sequence of microwaves that will entangle the lower qubits with the upper system, that is, with the upper qubits and tardigrades. This sequence is chosen so that the states of the two qubits differ. We are now dealing with exploring the following possibilities. When the lower qubit is “1”, the upper qubit is “0”, its capacitor is uncharged and no electrical charges are induced in tardigrades. This possibility occurs simultaneously with the state in which the lower qubit is in the “0” state, and the upper qubit is in the “1” state, whose electric charge creates a field that stimulates the charges in tardigrades.
The organism survived?
The experiment lasted 2.5 weeks. There have been many such experiences, each with a single organism, and for only one time did tardigrades return to their active state. The key is to cool down a bit and then warm up the tardigrades. There is a large change in temperature and a large change in pressure.
Were these tardigrades alive during the experiment, and thus during quantum entanglement?
This is a major question, the answer of which depends on our definition of what life is. As physicists have come to think of it, the argument came to mind based on the continuity of life. It seems that if an adult is alive today, then it also appears that he was alive yesterday and two and a half weeks ago. So the continuum of life shows that the animal was alive when it was entangled. Of course, we also discussed the definition of life with biologists, and two main pathways emerged. In the first case, an organism is alive if it is metabolically active – from this perspective, the animal in the experiment was not alive. Furthermore, this experiment shows (through this long exposure to nearly absolute zero) that the spore state is non-metabolic. The second definition of life depends on evolutionary arguments – something is alive if it can produce the next generation. Awake tardigrades behave normally and will likely be able to do so.
We hope for more experiences of this kind. Ideally, tardigrades could be measured completely independently of the qubit, or consider the systems in which the animal is metabolically active during entanglement. Everything is before us.
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