University of Tokyo scientists observe predicted quantum biochemical effects on cells.
Radical pairs<p>The phenomenon observed by scientists from the University of Tokyo matched the predictions of a theory put forward in 1975 by <a href="https://www.discovermagazine.com/planet-earth/how-birds-see-magnetic-fields-an-interview-with-klaus-schulten" target="_blank">Klaus Schulten</a> of the Max Planck Institute. Schulten proposed the mechanism through which even a very weak magnetic field—such as our planet's—could influence chemical reactions in their cells, allowing birds to perceive magnetic lines and navigate as they seem to do.</p><p>Shulten's idea had to do with radical pairs. A radical is a molecule with an odd number of electrons. When two such electrons belonging to different molecules become entangled, they form a radical pair. Since there's no physical connection between the electrons, their short-lived relationship belongs in the realm of quantum mechanics.</p><p>Brief as their association is, it's long enough to affect their molecules' chemical reactions. The entangled electrons can either spin exactly in sync with each other, or exactly opposite each other. In the former case, chemical reactions are slow. In the latter case, they're faster.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQzNDcxNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzMxNDc0N30.fvjXhn5uNKgbISXfMjj9J6-PIs0EgwqXA1X0PTPa7cc/img.jpg?width=980" id="52415" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d675ae83cf35b04342cd7d75b65ba0b0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1234" data-height="1440" />
Researchers Jonathan Woodward and Noboru Ikeya in their lab
Credit: © Xu Tao, CC BY-SA
Cryptochromes and flavins<p>Previous research has revealed that certain animal cells contain <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptochrome" target="_blank">cryptochromes</a>, proteins that are sensitive to magnetic fields. There is a subset of these called "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flavin_group" target="_blank">flavins</a>," molecules that glow, or autofluoresce, when exposed to blue light. The researchers worked with human HeLa cells (human cervical cancer cells), because they're rich in flavins. That makes them of special interest because it appears that geomagnetic navigation is <a href="https://jeb.biologists.org/content/204/19/3295" target="_blank">light-sensitive</a>.</p><p>When hit with blue light, flavins either glow or produce radical pairs — what happens is a balancing act in which the slower the spin of the pairs, the fewer molecules are unoccupied and available to fluoresce.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTQzNDcyMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3MTIxMTkyNX0.jkJMYwj6Sbpmy6Lj4vLIc6IMXSLoBDeDC6ixhTdn-Ro/img.jpg?width=980" id="8f1c0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8b639aedfc9b1a5f3a77159fe1ab7d82" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1200" data-height="402" />
HeLa cells (left), showing fluorescence caused by blue light (center), closeup of fluorescence (right)
The experiment<p>For the experiment, the HeLa cells were irradiated with blue light for about 40 seconds, causing them to fluoresce. The researchers' expectations were that this fluorescent light resulted in the generation of radical pairs.</p><p>Since magnetism can affect the spin of electrons, every four seconds the scientists swept a magnet over the cells. They observed that their fluorescence dimmed by about 3.5 percen each time they did this, as shown in the image at the beginning of this article.</p><p>Their interpretation is that the presence of the magnet caused the electrons in the radical pairs to align, slowing down chemical reactions in the cell so that there were fewer molecules available for producing fluorescence.</p><p>The short version: The magnet caused a quantum change in the radical pairs that suppressed the flavin's ability to fluoresce.</p><p>The University of Tokyo's <a href="http://gpes.c.u-tokyo.ac.jp/faculty-staff/measurement-and-evaluation/jonathan-r-woodward.html" target="_blank">Jonathan Woodward</a>, who authored the study with doctoral student Noboru Ikeya, <a href="https://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/focus/en/press/z0508_00158.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">explains</a> what's so exciting about the experiment:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The joyous thing about this research is to see that the relationship between the spins of two individual electrons can have a major effect on biology."</p><p>He notes, "We've not modified or added anything to these cells. We think we have extremely strong evidence that we've observed a purely quantum mechanical process affecting chemical activity at the cellular level."</p>
Previous research suggesting it's all about prolactin may be missing the mark.
- Men and other male creatures need time to recover between ejaculations, and scientists have assumed it has to do with an increase in the hormone prolactin after coitus.
- A new study finds that manipulating prolactin levels in mice makes no difference in their sexual behavior.
- The authors suspect more complex interactions may be at the heart of the wait for round two.
PERP<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTI2OTI5MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2OTkyODk5OH0.1M9fAOERqj7uhXoA0owV4diEjUUuMIZ_gxvAsfRdB3A/img.jpg?width=980" id="cd357" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d045e3e22ba8661166825b91be5b95b4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="960" />
Credit: Julian Hochgesang /Unsplash<p>From an evolutionary standpoint, as the study puts it, "The PERP is thought to allow replacement of sperm and seminal fluid, functioning as a negative feedback system where, by inhibiting too-frequent ejaculations, an adequate sperm count needed for fertilization is maintained." The length of time involved appears to be influenced by a range of factors, including age and the excitement associated with having a new sexual partner.</p><p>Prolactin itself serves a variety of functions in the human body for both sexes. Its most well-known role is to promote lactation—it's released by the female body during nursing. Estrogen triggers its production by the pituitary gland, while dopamine restrains it.</p><p>Though prolactin's other roles remain under investigation, it's also believed to be involved in behavior regulation, and in maintaining the immune, metabolic, and reproductive systems.</p>
No smoking gun<p>The authors write that "the sequence of sexual behavior in the mouse is very similar to the one observed in humans, making it an ideal system to test this hypothesis."</p><p>Therefore, for the study, Lima and her colleagues studied prolactin's role during and after sexual activity for two types of male mice—one type required several days to recover from ejaculation while the other had a relatively short PERP.</p><p>The researchers took blood from the males before they were introduced to female partners from whom they'd been kept separated. Blood was again taken after a preliminary mounting, again after a number of mounts that depended on the male's PERP—five mounts for the slow-recoverers and three for the males with the shorter turnaround time. Finally, blood was taken after ejaculation, which was fairly easy to discern since it was accompanied by what the study calls "stereotypical shivering" in the males, who also fell over afterward.</p><p>The researchers did find that the males' recovery was accompanied by higher levels of prolactin. However, during subsequent experiments in which the scientists boosted prolactin levels prior to sex—which, if the prevailing theory was correct, would have reduced their interest in copulation—no change in their sexual behavior was observed. Says Lima, "Despite the elevation in prolactin levels, both strains of mice engaged in sexual behavior normally."</p><p>Repressing prolactin levels after ejaculation also failed to reduce the males' PER interval. "If prolactin was indeed necessary for the refectory period," says Lima, "males without prolactin should have regained sexual activity after ejaculation faster than controls. But they did not."</p><p>Lima does caution that there are some differences between mice and men when it comes to prolactin dynamics, so more study is warranted.</p>
So, what is going on?<p>Lima suggests that there's likely some complex interaction between the two systems involved in ejaculation: the central brain system that manages desire and the peripheral system that handles the physical aspects of ejaculation.</p><p>At the very least, the research suggests that we don't yet know why men experience their mandatory time-out. "Our results indicate that prolactin is very unlikely to be the cause," Lima summarizes. "Now we can move on and try to find out what's really happening." </p>
Some volunteers performed above chance. They weren't the psychics.
- A control group outperformed professional mediums in a psychic test.
- This contradicted previous research the team performed in which mediums scored above chance levels.
- For this study, every volunteer had to guess the cause of death after being given three choices.
How to Squash a Paranormal Claim | Big Think<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f3c0b6591bf27048d378d503c7b1cbe5"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/9kVYvlRgPZM?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>A follow-up study was conducted in 2018. The researchers wanted to know if mediums could identify whether a person was alive or dead based on photographs. After looking over 404 photographs, five of a dozen mediums performed better than chance. As there was no control group, however, the team had to keep testing.</p><p>For this study, a dozen professional mediums and a dozen volunteers were recruited. Every photograph was of a deceased individual. This time the task was to identify whether the person died of a heart attack, a car accident, or from being shot. Each image was cropped in such a manner so that you couldn't easily recognize the cause of death. While giving answers, every volunteer was scanned for changes in neural blood flow and heart rate. The results surprised the team:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Overall, participants were able to detect the cause of death of deceased individuals at statistically robust above-chance levels. Contrary to our expectations that mediums would perform better than controls, the controls performed significantly better than the mediums." </p><p>While there were different neural responses between controls and self-professed mediums, they didn't correlate to correct answers. Even from beyond the grave, James Randi is still waiting—though it appears no one will be able to verify his impatience.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His most recent book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
What lies in store for humanity? Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku explains how different life will be for your ancestors—and maybe your future self, if the timing works out.
- Carl Sagan believed humanity needed to become a multi-planet species as an insurance policy against the next huge catastrophe on Earth. Now, Elon Musk is working to see that mission through, starting with a colony of a million humans on Mars. Where will our species go next?
- Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku looks decades into the future and makes three bold predictions about human space travel, the potential of 'brain net', and our coming victory over cancer.
- "[I]n the future, the word 'tumor' will disappear from the English language," says Kaku. "We will have years of warning that there is a colony of cancer cells growing in our body. And our descendants will wonder: How could we fear cancer so much?"
Night owl or early bird?
As with almost all life on Earth, human beings also function in cycles of light and dark. Look what happens to the human organism (and psyche) every day.