Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and ions

  1. Feb 21, 2005 #1
    Recently I had a discussion with friends about impact of H.U.P. on some biological functions.
    We had disagreement, about uncertainty of position of ion, say in neuron connected to another one by synapse, as a consequence of HUP, point was that if there is some uncertainty in position of ion or electron, your nerve synapse may fire up randomly, and that would be the and of programmed fate (no determinism). Let’s discard these conclusions, because I’m interested in physics of this process.

    I’ve claimed, that there’s no uncertainty unless we measure some property of that ion (Na+), and there’s no influence of HUP on that process. I’m I right, or they are ?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 21, 2005 #2
    Well, I'm not a big biology person, but quantum mechanics does have an efffect on molecules like ammonia (inversion of nitrogen), not to mention resonance behavior in even larger molecules, so I don't see any reason to throw it out for a sodium ion.

    Keep in mind though, that when your are talking about nerve synapses, you are talking about interactions of thousands-millions of particles, so I imagine the never synapse exhibits a statistical behavior that "shields" quantum mechanical effects.

    Think of the P-N junction in a diode. It does not behave non-deterministically - even though for an individual electron there is a chance to tunnel the barrier. The system is large enough so that current is more or less predictable vs. an applied voltage. Actually, there is alot of talk right now about how small you can make transistors(PNP or NPN junctions) before QM effects render the device unusable.

    In order to truly understand what is going on, of course you need QM, so you can never just "ignore" it. With all apologies to any hard core bio people here, thats the reason why alot of big advances in biology are being made by physicist/chemist hybrid types, because they are reaching the limits of what conventional classical understanding can reveal.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2005
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook