What is Life? (Chapter 4) - Schrodinger, "The Quantum-Mechanical Evidence


Max Planck – was a German theoretical physicist whose discovery of energy quanta won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.

Fritz Wolfgang London – was a German born physicist and professor at Duke University. His fundamental contributions to the theories of chemical bonding and of intermolecular forces are today considered classic and are discussed in standard textbooks of physical chemistry. 

Walter Heinrich Heitler – was a German physicist who made contributions to quantum electrodynamics and quantum field theory. He brought chemistry under quantum mechanics through his theory of valence bonding.


Isomer – In chemistry, isomers are molecules or polyatomic ions with identical molecular formulae – that is, same number of atoms of each element – but distinct arrangements of atoms in space. Isomerism is existence or possibility of isomers. Isomers do not necessarily share similar chemical or physical properties. 


Question: how can we from the point of statistical physics reconcile the facts that the gene structure seems to involve only a comparatively small number of atoms (of the order of 1,000 and possibly less), and that nevertheless displays a regular and lawful activity (with a durability and permanence that borders upon the miraculous)?

The answer lies in the fact that the genetic material structure are molecules.  That being said, what causes the molecular stability?

Heredity is founded on quantum theory.  

Changes in energy levels at the atomic level are called “quantum jumps.”  

When atomic nuclei are within close proximity to each other in “a system” (molecule) they are unable by their nature to adopt arbitrary configurations.  Rather the configurations are set in limited “states” (including energy levels).  A transformation from one state to another is a quantum jump.  An increase in energy requires the acquisition of energy from the outside, and a decrease in energy can result in spending or radiating energy.

Molecules have a certain stability.  Different configurations require temperature changes.  The measurement of chance for change given a temperature is described as the “time of expectation.”

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