Let There Be Life

2014, Science  -  59 min Leave a Comment
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Quantum physics, the field of science that studies the unpredictable behavior of subatomic particles, could hold the answers to many of life's most confounding secrets. So says noted physicist Professor Jim Al-Khalili. As host of the intriguing documentary Let There Be Life, Al-Khalili exits the sterile and highly controlled laboratory environment to test the validity of quantum physics in the natural world.

How can this field of science clarify our approach to the biological processes that have long mystified us? The film begins by studying the unusual migration pattern of the Quantum Robin, a distinguished species of bird that travels from Europe to the tip of Spain and back again ever year. The bird seems to use the Earth's barely perceptible magnetic field as its navigational guide. The filmmakers test this possibility by tracing the process of quantum physics in the cells of the bird's eye.

Elsewhere in the film, we learn how this science might deepen our understanding of how our sense of smell can distinguish between various scents. The filmmakers probe the role of quantum physics in the process of evolution, specifically as it relates to the tadpole that becomes a frog. How is this process possible in just a few short weeks?

The results of these experiments and others are surprising, definitive and deliciously weird.

Early on in Let There Be Life, viewers are provided a good primer on the definition of quantum physics, which makes the latter segments of the film much easier to digest. We hear of Einstein's distaste for a realm of thinking that favored the whims of chance over scientific certainty. Einstein claimed that he had uncovered a flaw in quantum physics, and Al-Khalili conducts his own experiment to test the legitimacy of this claim.

We also learn the key characteristics of the Uncertainty Principle, the theory which contends that the precise positioning and speed of a moving object cannot be adequately measured, and how it factors into the process of photosynthesis.

Engaging and amiable, Al-Khalili excels as our guide through this world of complex science; his enthusiasm proves more than infectious and makes us eager to learn more about the secret life of quantum physics.

Directed by: Kenny Scott