Why don’t we suffocate whenever we try to take a breath? An international team of scientists has used quantum mechanics – the science that usually deals with events at the level of the ultra-small – to solve this human-sized mystery.
Quantum mechanics has long proved its value in understanding such phenomena as the behavior of electrons and in classifying subatomic particles. But in recent years theorists have increasingly shown how it applies to all facets of life, large and small.
The new research, led by Cédric Weber of Kings College, London and reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirms that point.
"This work," said team member David O’Regan, a physicist at Ireland’s Trinity College, Dublin, "helps to illustrate the fact that quantum-mechanical effects, which may sometimes be viewed as somehow very exotic or only relevant under extreme conditions, are at play in the day-to-day regimes where biology, chemistry, and materials science operate."