Mixing Physics and Biology: Can the Art of Simplification Help to Unravel the Complexities of Life and Provide a Better Understanding of Life and Provide a Better Understanding of Cancer?
Dr Zeev Bomzon
Centre for Micro-Photonics, Faculty of Engineering and Industrial Science, Swinburne University of Technology.
Friday, 15th June 2007, 3.30PM, EN101, Ground floor, Engineering Building, Hawthorn.
Physics is the discipline concerned with the discovery and understanding of the fundamental laws which
govern matter, energy , space and time, and biology is the study of life. The approaches of scientists in these
two fields are fundamentally different. Traditionally, physicists have dealt with “simple” systems in which the
number of different interacting entities is limited. As a result, physicists have become the masters of
simplification, seeking to understand systems through a few fundamental laws that can generally be expressed
as mathematical equations. In contrast, biological systems are extremely complex as they involve many
different interacting entities. Therefore it is difficult to describe biological systems from first principles.
Consequently biologists often rely on complicated diagrams to describe the multitude of interactions that occur
within living organisms. Traditionally, the differences between biology and physics have posed a barrier
between the two disciplines. However, recent years have seen a surge in multidisciplinary research in which
biologists, physicists and engineers all work together on a single project. In this talk I will discuss my
experiences as a physicist involved in such multidisciplinary research. I will show some examples of physics
can be successfully applied to biological systems. In particular I will discuss studies into the mechanical
properties of cells, and explain why cell mechanics is relevant to understanding cancer and other diseases.
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