Photosynthesis allows plants to convert light from the Sun into energy, and, in some cases, it does this incredibly well. In fact, certain bacteria can capture 95% of the light that hits them and turn it into useful energy.
Solar panels also convert light from the Sun into energy—but they aren't nearly as good at it. The very best solar panels ever tested in a lab (i.e., not the ones actually available for sale and installation on your house) were able to convert about 34% of the light that hit them into electricity. (Individual experimental solar cells can do better than that. But those are even further away from being incorporated into commercially available panels.)
Why can't we use the Sun's energy as effectively as bacteria can? The secret may be that the bacteria are using quantum physics to transmit energy. It's sort of like the bacteria have a method for keeping boxes of energy from falling off the truck during transport.
We don't often think of biology and quantum physics as overlapping realms of science. But, truth is, quantum physics could be incredibly important to understanding the way biology works and to the very development of life on Earth itself.
Tonight at the World Science Festival, astrophysicist Paul Davies and quantum computing innovator Seth Lloyd will talk about the growing field of quantum biology—why it works, what it means, and how it might shape our future. The Bad News: The Festival is happening in New York City and tonight's panel is sold out. The Good News: You can watch a live webcast of the event online.
I'll be hosting the webcast tonight, starting at 8:00 Eastern time. You can watch the video feed and join in the conversation at the World Science Festival's website.
EDIT: Thanks to the readers for pointing out that I'd made some big errors in this. Should be fixed now.
Image: Jatropha hybrid - Leaf detail (129 DAS), a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from 47108884@N07's photostream
Mathematician Stephen Wolfram and his company do a lot of consulting for Hollywood. But he doesn’t often do it on an urgent basis because a movie is about to shoot and they neglected to “tech the tech.” When I first started looking at the script for [Arrival], I quickly realized that to make coherent suggestions […]
Can you “hear” motion or light flashes? If so, according to new research from City University London, you may be experiencing a not-so-rare form of synaesthesia. Synesthesia is the fascinating neurological phenomenon whereby stimulation of one sense involuntarily triggers another sensory pathway. For example, a synesthete might taste sounds or hear colors. (In this study, […]
Scientists declared the ruby seadragon a new species in 2015, but that was based on dead specimens in a museum. Now though, Scripps Institution of Oceanography biologist Greg Rouse who led the team that originally discovered the species, managed to find two of the wonderful fish swimming around the Recherche Archipelago, off the south coast […]
You know as well as I that writing complex, long-long form text requires significant organization. You’re probably also well aware that Word just isn’t up to the task. That’s why I’m a huge fan of Scrivener, the software suite used by best-selling authors and technical writers alike.Scrivener is much more than another digital typewriter. With a […]
Looking to upgrade your weekend? Here are three randomly awesome products on my mind this week.#3 FRESHeBUDS Pro Magnetic Bluetooth EarbudsAs more and more phones and gadgets switch to Bluetooth-only compatibility, you’ll need to get Bluetooth headphones like the rest of us. I’ve been super impressed with these affordable magnetic headphones. Pull the magnetic earbuds apart to auto-connect […]
Traditional folding wallets are designed for paper bills—but these days, carrying cash is rarely a necessity. More often than not, I don’t carry cash at all. This Bogui Clik Wallet is the best answer I’ve found for avoiding the hassle of those tight-fitting credit card pockets.This attractive, minimalist wallet features a protective lip, so my cards don’t […]