Friday, March 25, 2011

Smell Might Be A Quantum Physics Phenomenon

Fancy that!

I've heard of this idea before, but now it beginning to gain some traction a bit. I don't know how it will work out in the end, but in the mean time, it is nice to follow the progress on this idea.

This news article reports from the ongoing APS March Meeting in Dallas, TX, where the idea that our sense of smell might be explained using quantum mechanics.

Dr Horsfield's research centres on demonstrating how the vibration might be detected.

The idea is that an electron on one part of a protein may move, and arrive at another part lacking a quantum of vibrational energy.

"The electron starts at one end of the room, if you like, and it can only make it to the other end if it gives up energy to the molecule in the middle of the room," he explained.

"Once it's arrived, you say 'Aha! The fact that it's here means that somewhere beteween where it started and where it is now there's a molecule with the right vibrational frequency'."

This might be a good excuse for physics instructors to wake up sleepy students in the class while teaching the topic on quantum harmonic oscillator. Those Hermite polynomials might be responsible for all our smell senses! :)


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