Friday, July 25, 2014

The Eighteenth Elephant

I know that there are very few people out there interested in reading a blog about physics applied to medicine and biology. But those few (those wonderful few) might want to know of ANOTHER blog about physics applied to medicine and biology. It is called The Eighteenth Elephant. The blog is written by Professor Raghuveer Parthasarathy at the University of Oregon. He is a biological physicist, with an interest in teaching “The Physics of Life” to non-science majors. He also leads a research lab that studies many biological physics topics, such as imaging and the mechanical properties of membranes. If you like my blog about the 4th edition of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology, you will also like The Eighteenth Elephant. Even if you don’t enjoy my blog, you still might like Parthasarathy’s blog (he doesn’t constantly bombard you with links to the page where you can purchase his book).

One of my favorite entries from The Eighteenth Elephant was from last April. I’ve talked about animal scaling of bones in this blog before. A bone must support an animal’s weight (proportional to the animal’s volume), its strength increases with its cross-sectional area, and its length generally increases with the linear size of an animal. Therefore, large animals need bones that are thicker relative to their length, in order to support their weight. I demonstrate this visually by showing my class pictures of bones from different animals. Parthasarathy doesn’t mess around with pictures; he brings a dog femur and an elephant femur to class! (See the picture here, its enormous.) How much better than showing pictures! Now, I just need to find my own elephant femur….

Be sure to read the delightful story about 18 elephants that gives the blog its name.


  1. Thanks for sharing additional routes to learning more physics of biology and medicine.

  2. Thanks for the pointer to my blog! By the way: though I only learned of the University of Oregon's elephant skeleton last term, it's apparently been on campus, unknown to me, for years. So: who knows what undiscovered treasures there might be on your own campus! -- Raghu Parthasarathy

  3. Well, I suppose it is possible we have an elephant skeleton at OU, but it is extremely unlikely. There is a better chance someone went hunting in the upper peninsula and we have a Moose femur.