Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Shrodinger's tobacco mosaic virus

I'm sure everyone is familiar with Shrodinger's Cat, the infamous quantum-mechanical thought experiment (apparently, it was first posited as a sort of laughing attempt to put in real terms some of quantum mechanics' more...interesting...theories).

Well, now scientists are attempting to do something...similar. With viruses. Only certain types of virus, including that mentioned in the title of this post, are suitable to the purpose, but they are hopeful it can be managed.

Of course, the interesting thing here is the definition of a virus as a living thing. When I was at university (admittedly, some years ago), I remember being told that the jury was out regarding that. It all depends, apparently, on how many features you feel something needs to display if is to to be considered 'living'.

Viruses are considered to be hovering on the edge, as while they display many of the characteristics associated with life - making more of themselves, having genes, evolving - they also lack some other father fundamental functions, such as metabolism. Or growth. Etc.

On the other hand, whether or not the experiment turns out to be useful, particularly for "the role of consciousness in quantum mechanics", but it will provide the material, no doubt, a number of humorous tshirts and webcomics.