Sunday, September 20, 2009

Quantum Water Bear

Quantum mechanics tells us that probability underlies all things, that atoms exist in a haze of uncertainty. This allows the strangeness of superposition, in which atoms or molecules can exist in two states simultaneously. Researchers are now trying to test superposition of living things, starting with viruses (sort of alive). They might then advance to the extraordinary tardigrade, the microscopic "water bear". From wikipedia, "Tardigrades are polyextremophiles and are able to survive in extreme environments that would kill almost any other animal. Some can survive temperatures of -273°C, close to absolute zero, temperatures as high as 151 °C (303 °F), 1,000 times more radiation than other animals such as humans, nearly a decade without water, and even the vacuum of space." That's like evolution's NASA astronaut program. Check out video of the water bear.

(image credit: tardigrade, Ralph O Schill, via newscientist.com)