Life science still hides a few mysteries. How do migratory birds sense direction? How are molecules in the air perceived as a smell? How, precisely, do tadpoles lose their tails? For years, scattered views from the fringes have attempted to explain such phenomena using quantum mechanics, a weird bit of physics that predicts oddities such as particles being in multiple places at once, eerily connected across vast distances or tunnelling through seemingly insuperable barriers.
Yet a growing body of experimental evidence suggests that quantum oddities may really be responsible for many of life’s engineering successes. Quantum biology, the name given to the nascent field that draws these diverse data together, is moving in from the fringes and becoming established. “Life on the Edge” is the first popular science book to outline it.