Why is your heart on your left side? (Or is it?) — What is biophysics? #4

The fourth in a series of biophysical questions (one, two, three). If you put your hand on your chest you’ll probably realize that your heart is a bit left-of-center. Or perhaps not: about one in 10,000 people have their heart on the right. No one’s heart lies exactly on the body’s midline, nor does anyone’s … Continue reading Why is your heart on your left side? (Or is it?) — What is biophysics? #4

The Year in Books, 2021

Once again, my favorites of the books I read during the past year, plus some that weren’t favorites but worth noting nonetheless. (Previous posts: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015.) The Covid-19 pandemic continues, though halfway through 2021 we were at least allowed to browse the public library in person again, which the kids … Continue reading The Year in Books, 2021

What’s the shape of a protein? (What is biophysics? #2)

The second in a series of biophysical questions. Proteins are molecules. As is the case for every molecule, the constituent atoms and inter-atomic bonds determine the overall shape. In general, a small or stiff molecule has a well-defined form. In contrast, long, chain-like molecules as found in plastics or the gel-formers of the last post … Continue reading What’s the shape of a protein? (What is biophysics? #2)

How can you push DNA through Jello? (What is biophysics? #1)

An introduction to the series: It’s easy to write that biophysics is the intersection of biology and physics, but this is a minimal and cryptic description. We could elaborate, and describe biophysics as the study of how living things use physical forces to shape themselves, how we can harness physical processes for technological ends, and … Continue reading How can you push DNA through Jello? (What is biophysics? #1)

Living Gels

About a recent paper from my lab: B. H. Schlomann and R. Parthasarathy, “Gut bacterial aggregates as living gels,” eLife, 10: e71105 (2021). DOI: 10.7554/eLife.71105. What do gut bacterial colonies look like? My group has been exploring this question for years, and ever since our first forays peering inside larval zebrafish it has been evident … Continue reading Living Gels

Course Recap: Physics of Solar and Renewable Energies, Spring 2021

Before my memories grow even dimmer I should write down some thoughts about the class I taught Spring term: The Physics of Solar and Renewable Energies. Like its companion course, The Physics of Energy and the Environment, which I taught the quarter before and wrote about here, it’s a course for non-science-major undergraduates at the … Continue reading Course Recap: Physics of Solar and Renewable Energies, Spring 2021