Can you see single photons? — What is biophysics? #6

The realization that electromagnetic waves are quantized — that light interacts in discrete packets — marked the beginning of quantum mechanics. Whether this fundamental attribute of the physical world sets the performance limits of human vision is a fascinating biophysical question. It’s so fascinating that Bill Bialek’s excellent graduate-level biophysics textbook begins with it, and … Continue reading Can you see single photons? — What is biophysics? #6

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

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

“So Simple A Beginning,” A Popular Science Book about Biophysics

June 21-28, 2022: 50% off at Princeton University Press! Descriptions of my general-audience book on biophysics are scattered across multiple blog posts, in some cases with outdated information like old versions of the title. Since it’s useful to have one definitive post to point to, here it is. So Simple a Beginning: How Four Physical … Continue reading “So Simple A Beginning,” A Popular Science Book about Biophysics