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Mar11-08, 02:41 PM
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Quote Quote by Andy Resnick View Post
This is not true! Granted, some instrumentation and software developed for physics has been adapted by the medical community (mass spectroscopy, CT, MRI), and physics is slowly developing tools to analyze biological phenomena, but the daily practice of medicine is so far removed from *science* it's really shocking. Biomedical research, which slowly alters the practice of medicine, is as far removed from physics as brewing beer.

Let's start with diagnosis- medical diagnosis is performed by physical examination and blood/urine analysis. The analysis uses biochemistry and the interpretation of the test and exam results is based on "lore" which has been handed down for centuries. For example- how much serum albumin is normal? What is normal blood pressure? What is the normal concentration of calcium in the urine? On what basis is 'normal' established?

From diagnosis to treatment options- medications. Again, it's all based on biochemistry. No physics. I defy anyone to provide a physics-only picture of the cell growth cycle or muscle contraction that has a shred of utility. The tools and techniques used in drug discovery are derived from biochemistry. Western blots were not invented by a physicist.

Surgery- surgery should be considered an art. There is a mystique about surgery that colors all discussions (and rightly so: errors in surgery tend to have more dire consequences than a sign error), and the tools used in surgery have generally developed by surgeons. Has anyone consulted a physicist before performing an organ transplant? Even seen a cystoscope? Do you think a physicist designed that?

Yeah, yeah... physics is at the foundation of all science, physics or stamp collecting, blah blah blah. Please. That is a provincial view of the world.

So yes, advances in medicine occur routinely without any reference to physics. And much of biomedical research- my research included- uses physical principles that are absolutely not covered in any physics degree. Do some tools used in physics diffuse their way over to biology? Of course. Is that diffusion required? Definitely not, and to claim otherwise flies in the face of reality.
If you look at the various beamlines at the Advanced Photon Source, you'll be surprised that almost half of them are filled with biomedical/pharmaceutical research projects! And I wasn't talking the "daily" practices, even though one can easily point out laser surgeries, and CAT scans, and PET scans, etc as coming directly out of physics. I'm talking about the advances made in medicine that benefited from the advances and techniques that came out of physics. The LCLS was built because there was a need in biomedicine for light sources of that intensity. And in the June US particle accelerator school, there's a session on medical accelerators which are now more common than you think. Even something as mundane as an electron microscope came out of our understanding of physics AND out of something that we used in physics.