Before your get your pitchforks and torches, I realise the headline is a bit misleading, but the temptation was too great, as I am sure was the case for other news outlets.

Some of them went for

Plants ‘seen doing quantum physics’

Or

Uncovering quantum secret in photosynthesis

And my personal favourite

Plants use quantum physics even if we can’t

So what is this all about? In a nutshell, a Spanish team of scientists have discovered that plants exploit certain effects of the quantum mechanical world to their advantage, and may have been doing so a very long time before we realised there was a special set of rules for the physics of very small things, which we call quantum physics now.

The crucial bit of information, the truly novel finding, is that living organisms (Rhodopseudomonas acidophila, a charismatic purple bacterium in this case) exploit the superposition of photons, that is, their ability to be at multiple locations at the same time, to absorb energy more efficiently – so a quantum photosynthetic trick.

What I love about this story is how despite having a huge scientific background to cover (biology, physics, quantum mechanics), it conveys something quite amazing that we can appreciate without a great deal of knowledge on any of these specific topics. That, I think, is the sign of good science journalism – making the monumental mundane and allowing us to gasp and be impressed, not at the complicated technical stuff, but at the simplistic beauty of nature in action.

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Original article available at Science magazine and news articles as reported in BBC News, Science Daily and MSN Now. 

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