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Modelling Life - How Quantum Mechanics can Help us Understand Biology

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The biggest challenge facing biologists today is the transition to a quantitative understanding of life, that would allow the properties of complex systems to be predicted by calculations based on the the knowledge of their parts.

In principle, the behaviour of systems on an atomic scale can be accurately predicted using quantum mechanics. Biological phenomena obey the same physical laws as all forms of matter. In practice, the size of biological molecules, made up of hundreds of thousands of atoms acting on each other over relatively long time-scales, has made such modelling a formidable task.

Prof Mike Payne will present ingenious computational methods, which make it possible to obtain useful predictions of biological processes, by means of “first principle” quantum methods. He will give stunning examples of actual biochemical questions that have been answered by this approach. His group has developed modelling software which is accessible to biologists, and requires only moderate computing power.

Prof Payne will demonstrate how much gain be gained where biologists and physicists start talking to each other! This promises to be a fascinating interdisciplinary talk given by a leader in this emerging field of computational biology.

This talk is part of the SciSoc – Cambridge University Scientific Society series.

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