#116 Quantum Biology with Professor Jim Al-Khalili

01 Sep 2021

Today I welcome the award-winning science communicator, Professor Jim Al-Khalili to the podcast. Renowned around the world through his writing and broadcasting, he is also a leading academic making fundamental contributions to theoretical nuclear physics and quantum biology as you will hear. He is also host of the long running “Life Scientific” on Radio 4.

Today’s conversation is not just complex, it’s confusing. And you’ll probably gather throughout our chat, I was pretty confused. I do my best to breakdown the science for you as we progress through our conversation, but the validating message that Jim confirms is : “If you’re confused, You understand it!”

We talk about

  • Jim’s upbringing in Iraq and what led him to physics
  • The Quantum vs Classic systems
  • Where Quantum physics has a role
  • Life on the Edge - one of the only books  detailing Quantum Biology
  • Why Quantum Mechanics is so important
  • Some weird quantum effects such as entanglement and tunneling
  • Why Quantum mechanics has a role in biology
  • Heredity and how it is possible that replication occurs with so few errors
  • Where the boundary between classical and quantum systems exists
  • Quantum mechanics and Photosynthesis 
  • Jim’s thoughts on Urban electromagnetic disruption
  • Human Consciousness
  • AI and humans
  • Artificial General intelligence versus machine learning
  • Jim’s latest grant to examine the borders between quantum and the classical world


You can read his book “Life on the Edge”, which is a fantastic historical look at how the quantum world has influenced biology and why it’s important.


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What a fascinating conversation with Professor Jim Al-Khalili - some truly mind blowing information - I loved chatting with Jim and hope you find our chat as interesting as I did!  Definitely check out Jims book - Life on The Edge - and theres many more books too on the website here : https://www.jimal-khalili.com/books
Some reference links that I wanted to share with you:
Double slit experiment:
Jim’s TED talk - click here
Radio shows - click here
Jim’s lecture for The Royal Institute (2020) - click here

GUEST: Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE FRS

Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE FRS is a theoretical physicist at the University of Surrey where he holds a Distinguished Chair in physics as well as a university chair in the public engagement in science. He has published over 100 research papers on nuclear physics and quantum mechanics during his career, but is also a prominent populariser of science and has written 14 books on popular science and the history of science, between them translated into twenty-six languages. He is a regular presenter of TV science documentaries, such as the Bafta nominated Chemistry: a volatile history, and he hosts the long-running weekly BBC Radio 4 programme, The Life Scientific. Jim is a past president of the British Science Association  and a recipient of the Royal Society Michael Faraday medal, the Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Medal, the Institute of Physics Kelvin Medal and the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication.

with Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE FRS

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