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

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)