Friday, November 30, 2007

What Should Every Biological Physicist Know?

Is there a common core of knowledge that every Medical or Biological physicist should know? Oakland University has a Medical Physics PhD program, and we define our knowledge core through our PhD qualifying exam. Students take three exams in Theoretical Physics, Mathematical Methods, and Biophysical Sciences (or, more succinctly, Physics, Math, and Biology). If you would like to see what sort of questions we ask on this exam, go to, where you can download copies of all exams for at least the last decade. If you look closely, you will find questions from Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology every year.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A "Citation Index" for Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology

Who does Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology cite most? I went through the index of our book and tallied the number of entries for various scientists. (Disclaimer: this is the number of pages listed in the index, which is not necessarily the same as the number of times cited.) Most are authors of leading textbooks. Here is a list of scientists who Russ Hobbie and I cite a dozen times or more:

16 Robert Plonsey: Emeritus Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University and author of several textbooks including the classic "Bioelectric Phenomena"

16 William Press: first author of my favorite book on numerical methods, "Numerical Recipes". His unfortunate coauthors didn't make the list because we usually cited the book as "Press et al."

16 Robert Resnick: Prolific textbook coauthor, including the excellent "Quantum Physics of Atoms, Molecules, Solids, Nuclei, and Particles"

15 Mark Denny: Author of the delightful book "Air and Water".

14 Leon Glass: Leading researcher at McGill University studying nonlinear dynamics as applied to biology and medicine. Coauthor of the influential book "From Clocks to Chaos".

13 Jose Jalife: Leading researcher in cardiac electrophysiology at the Upstate University of New York, and co-editor of the often-cited book "Cardiac Electrophysiology: From Cell to Bedside".

13 Brad Roth: Humble, I'm not.

13 John Wikswo: Physics Professor at Vanderbilt University known for his research in biomagnetism and electrophysiology.

12 Frank Attix: Author of the textbook "Introduction to Radiological Physics and Radiation Dosimetry", a standard for medical physics.

12 Arthur Guyton (1919-2003): Author of the much-cited book "Textbook of Medical Physiology" (with coauthor Hall in recent editions).

Friday, November 16, 2007

Weight Control

How do we add material to each edition without making Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology a lot larger? Answer: The web. We no longer need the tables that occupied many pages in the Appendices of earlier editions. You can now find all that data online, for instance at ab2.html. Also, we deleted sections of previous editions that we did not feel were essential. Deleted text -- some dating back to the first edition -- is available on the book web site

For the curious, the 1st (1978) edition had 557 pages and the 2nd (1988) edition had 623 pages. After the 2nd edition the page size became larger making comparisons difficult. The 3rd (1997) edition had 575 pages and the 4th (2007) edition has 616 pages. Like many Americans our weight is creeping up, but we fight a constant battle to keep the book from becoming super-sized.

Friday, November 9, 2007

A Bridge Between Biologists and Physicists

Peter Kahn reviewed the third edition of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology in the American Journal of Physics (vol. 67, pp. 457-458, 1999). Kahn wrote

"Hobbie's book presents a wealth of material. Clearly the target audience is physics students interested in biological processes, although biology students with strong backgrounds in physics and mathematics will benefit greatly from reading the book. It will prove useful as a text for those wishing to help advanced physics undergraduates and graduate students appreciate the important role that physics plays in understanding biology. It will be of value to biologists, physiologists, and neurobiologists as a reference. And, maybe, it will be a bridge over which biologists and physicists can initiate and maintain a dialogue."

Friday, November 2, 2007

Page Proofs

This week is a major anniversary for the fourth edition of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology. One year ago this Tuesday, the page proofs arrived. Russ Hobbie and I painstakingly checked 632 pages of text, figures, tables, and equations, equations, equations (I estimate about 2000 of them). The job took over our lives for two weeks, but we finished before Thanksgiving, bringing to an end the process of preparing the 4th edition that had begun five years earlier.