Sputnik discussed the research with the author of the study, Professor Enrique Solano of the Department of Physical Chemistry at the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, Spain.
Sputnik: How has your team managed to create artificial life? What is understood by this term
Enrique Solano: It was one of the most original and most inspired research works we have conducted in my group in Bilbao. Essentially we are quantum physicists working on quantum computers and quantum technologies, but many of us have an interest in biology and the way fundamental matter can create life in biological systems.
Let's say that the quantum atoms are born, develop, have a social life, can die, can reproduce, can create new life, new generations, can make mutations, can self-replicate and to our surprise, little by little, we reached our goal and this worked pretty well.
So that's why our claim is that we have created in the lab in a quantum computer a sequence of steps that are typically associated with the Darwinian evolution of life.
Sputnik: Would you say that we're definitely much closer now to understanding the way that life originated?
Enrique Solano: This is a very difficult question; we are very professional and we're not really conservative scientists, we believe in the free creation of the mind. But in our scientific work, we just discussed this issue rather distantly and professionally.
But the international press and many colleagues have been able to make daring comments about this that we cannot claim but what we wanted to say is we have a game, it's a game of life in the quantum computer if it works what is the conclusions?
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So we have opened the door for this discussion, as you know this is very difficult to make, a claim that we are convinced that this is the way life originated at the level of atoms, but certainly, it proves that it is possible and that… who knows? Even our life can have some quantum properties, not like atoms.
Sputnik: I understand that you used something called 'qubits' — coded units of quantum life that are made up of two qubits; those are basic building blocks of quantum physics and one was representing the genome type or the genetic code that's past on through generations; the other one was the representation of the phenotype or the way that the organism looks, the outward characteristics. Can you talk about how similar this is to Darwinian theory?
Enrique Solano: It is very related but, of course, we needed to make one or more changes to the creative process of this research, in the sense that if you say O* is a cell or a living system alive or not, this is already a very difficult question, depending on if a virus or bacteria is alive or not. But in our case, we went to the truly microscopic world and there the unit is the qubit.
Our living system is composed of two qubits one of the genotype, what we bring from our parents and the phenotype type what we transform during our lives. Then we added the possibility that these living quantum systems interact and sometimes they can create offspring or not, so these are random processes.
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We added mutation processes; sometimes things work, sometimes not, and we observed that little by little these living systems started to create a small town, a small society and finally some of them were older and their lives were extinguished and then others were created and they have another life, so we observe really how this can grow in complexity and we believe that with larger quantum computers we will be able to run this algorithm in a way that we can create complexity and perhaps beings, or gender, or societies, or species can co-exist in this quantum world.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.