Friday, June 19, 2009

Resource Letter PFBi-1: Physical Frontiers in Biology

Eugenie Mielczarek of George Mason University published Resource Letter PFBi-1: Physical Frontiers in Biology in the American Journal of Physics (Volume 74, Pages 375-381, 2006). The fourth edition of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology was one of 39 books listed in the letter.

What are Resource Letters? They are collections of references that are published periodically by the American Journal of Physics.
"Resource Letters are guides for college and university physicists, astronomers, and other scientists to literature, websites, and other teaching aids. Each Resource Letter focuses on a particular topic and is intended to help teachers improve course content in a specific field of physics or to introduce nonspecialists to this field."
Mielczarek's Resource Letter discusses topics that will be of interest to readers of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology.
"This Resource Letter provides a guide to the literature on physical frontiers in biology. Books and review articles are cited as well as journal articles for the following topics: cells and cellular mats; conformational dynamics/folding; electrostatics; enzymes, proteins, and molecular machines; material-biomineralization; miscellaneous topics; nanoparticles and nanobiotechnology; neuroscience; photosynthesis; quantum mechanics theory; scale and energy; spectroscopy and microscopy: experiments and instrumentation; single-molecule dynamics; and water and hydrogen-bonded solvents. A list of web resources and videotapes is also given."
The letter begins with a fascinating 3-page overview of the role of physics in biology. For instance, Mielczarek asks the question
"Which principles govern life? Dutifully the physicist might answer—the organizing of electrons into their lowest energy states, forcing molecules and groups of molecules into specific configurations. But be cautious: this simplistic answer implies an isolated system in equilibrium. It conceals the dynamics of life, which require a continuous input of matter and energy. Cells, tissues and organisms are dependent upon energy refreshment."
Readers who enjoy Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology will probably find Mielczarek's Resource Letter to be a valuable...well, resource. They may also enjoy her book Iron, Nature's Universal Element: Why People Need Iron & Animals Make Magnets .

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