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Jim Al-Khalili – Four Way Interview

Jim Al-Khalili is a theoretical physicist based at the University of Surrey, where he teaches and carries out research in quantum mechanics. He presents the Radio 4 series The Life Scientific and has presented TV and radio documentaries. His latest book is Paradox.
Why Science?
Science is, for me, the only rational and reliable way of making sense of the world. Striving to understand why and how the universe is the way it is and our place in it is, I believe, what makes us human.
Why this book?
Asking and seeking answers to some of the most profound questions of existence don’t have to be obscure and complicated. They can be fun, challenging and mind-blowing. So what better way than to tackle them than through setting them up as paradoxes and puzzles that stretch the old grey matter?
What’s next?
Having written an accessible popular science book that I hope everyone can enjoy, I now embark on another book that is far more challenging. While still popular science, this book (working title: Quantum Life) will, I hope become the definitive one on the emerging and tremendously exciting field of research I am involved in, called quantum biology. I have the rest of this year and the next to carry out the research for the book and to write. I am getting excited just thinking about the prospect.
What’s exciting you at the moment?
Ah, well, there you go. I have sort of just answered that: what excites me is my current research into possible quantum mechanical mechanisms in microbiology. For instance, what is the extent to which quantum tunnelling (a process I am familiar with from nuclear physics) is required to explain genetic mutations? Or, how does quantum entanglement explain bird migration and our sense of smell? And, can we only really understand the process of photosynthesis by appealing to the notion that subatomic particles can be in two places at once?
Picture (c) Furnace Ltd – reproduced with permission


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