A tardigrade has become the first multicellular organism to be observed in a quantum entangled state, after scientists coupled the animal to a superconducting quantum bit (‘qubit’) and then entangled that combined system with another qubit.
In the process of undergoing the experiment, the tardigrade also set a new record for survival under extreme conditions: it spent 420 hours at sub-10mK temperatures and pressure of 6 × 10−6 mbar.
The new study, “Entanglement between superconducting qubits and a tardigrade“, is yet another step forward in the field of ‘quantum biology‘. Previously many believed that quantum effects were not compatible with living beings, which were seen as being too ‘hot and wet’ to allow these states. However, in recent years research has begun exploring the possibility of quantum effects in biologically-relevant processes such as photosynthesis, smell (olfaction), animal navigation, and in entire organisms such as bacteria and viruses. And, as we’ve covered a number of times here on the Grail over the years, advances in this field also may lead to more acceptance of the idea that there may be something to theories of quantum consciousness.
In this particular research study, tardigrades were used as they are microscopic invertebrate animals (with an adult length of just 50-1200µm) that are known to be able to survive in conditions of extreme cold and pressure by going into a latent state of life known as cryptobiosis – they reduce their volume and contract into an ametabolic state known as a ‘tun’. They then revive upon being introduced to water at normal atmospheric pressure.
In the experiment, researchers placed a tardigrade tun on a superconducting qubit and observed coupling between the qubit and the tardigrade tun via a shift in the resonance frequency of the new qubit-tardigrade system. They then entangled this joint qubit-tardigrade system with a second superconducting qubit.
Quantum entanglment is a strange phenomenon where two or more objects become ‘linked’, such that their quantum states have to be described with reference to each other, even though the objects may be spatially separated from each other.
According to the researchers, their successful pioneering investigation…
…is perhaps the closest realisation combining biological matter and quantum matter available with present-day technology. While one might expect similar physical results from inanimate object with similar composition to the tardigrade, we emphasise that entanglement is observed with entire organism that retains its biological functionality post experiment. At the same time, the tardigrade survived the most extreme and prolonged conditions it has ever been exposed to, demonstrating that cryptobiosis (latent life) is truly ametabolic. We hope this will stimulate further experiments with the states of the animal being more and more macroscopically distinguishable. Our work provides a first step in the exciting direction of creating hybrid systems consisting of living matter and quantum bits.