Quantum entanglement is a mysterious process, borne out of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, in which discreet particles can forever be tied to one another, changing state when the other in the pair changes its state, regardless of how far apart the particles are. (To fully appreciate the idea of quantum entanglement, check out a Wikipedia entry on Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox). Because of the inherent ‘strength’ of this connection, scientists from National University of Singapore and University College London have proposed a new theoretical model that uses quantum entanglement to explain DNA’s inherent stability.
From the TR’s Physics arXiv Blog:
The question that Elisabeth Rieper at the National University of Singapore and a couple of buddies have asked is what role might entanglement play in DNA. To find out, they’ve constructed a simplified theoretical model of DNA in which each nucleotide consists of a cloud of electrons around a central positive nucleus. This negative cloud can move relative to the nucleus, creating a dipole. And the movement of the cloud back and forth is a harmonic oscillator.
When the nucleotides bond to form a base, these clouds must oscillate in opposite directions to ensure the stability of the structure.
Rieper and co ask what happens to these oscillations, or phonons as physicists call them, when the base pairs are stacked in a double helix…
Although each nucleotide in a base pair is oscillating in opposite directions, this occurs as a superposition of states, so that the overall movement of the helix is zero. In a purely classical model, however, this cannot happen, in which case the helix would vibrate and shake itself apart.
So in this sense, these quantum effects are responsible for holding DNA together.
Read on at Physics arXiv Blog: Quantum Entanglement Holds DNA Together, Say Physicists…
Full article in arXiv Quantum Physics: The relevance of continuous variable entanglement in DNA (.pdf version)