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Can cells be reduced to physics?

  1. Apr 29, 2005 #1
    I admittedly do not know a lot about cells...all I know is that they compose life. Now, a cell is made up of thousands of atoms correct? What I do remember from my last bio class was that there are different parts of cells that do different functions.

    My question is, do the parts of cells performing their functions do so because of physical laws, not biological? For example, if one part of a cell is in charge of discreting waste, does it do so because of physical laws?

    I don't know if I am being clear - for example, A bullet leaves the barrel of a gun because of physical laws, because of the energy released by the explosion.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 29, 2005 #2

    Ouabache

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    Actually biology and physics are mutually intertwined.
    There is a whole field devoted to it, biophysics.
    For some light reading and animated examples of cell biophysics just follow the blue hyperlink and explore.
     
  4. Apr 29, 2005 #3

    Pengwuino

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    All things happen because of physics. Physics is the building blocks of all science because it includes teh study of atoms (and cells are made of atoms so we got teh ground floor on that :D)
     
  5. Apr 29, 2005 #4

    Moonbear

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    As has been mentioned, yes. Biology doesn't invoke magic. Physical laws apply to biological systems.
     
  6. Apr 29, 2005 #5

    Monique

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    Biology is physics of life.

    You cannot be a good (molecular) biologist without understanding physics, how that leads to chemistry and how a cell exploits that.

    For instance: you can have a molecule that needs to bind to another molecule, but the interaction is not very strong. The way the cell makes up for that is by increasing the valency of the molecule: if it has 5 indentical arms, the interaction will be stronger.

    I am talking about IgM here. Later the immune system will start hypermutation to increase the specificity and strength of the interaction, after which the valency of the molecule will go down: you get IgG.
     
  7. Apr 29, 2005 #6

    JamesU

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    I know alot about cell and cellular biology, and I can safely say that everthing, like cell processes, happen through physics.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2005
  8. Apr 30, 2005 #7

    SpaceTiger

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    That's not to say, of course, that biologists don't discover new consequences of the physical laws. Technically, this is most of what physicists do as well.
     
  9. Apr 30, 2005 #8

    Monique

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    Ofcourse, (molecular) biologists use physical laws to describe systems.. we apply the knowledge. We use desorption of molecules, x-ray diffraction, nuclear magnetic resonance, measurement of bonding strengths. Biology is not all about watching a bird migrate from one continent to another :wink:
     
  10. Apr 30, 2005 #9
    Alright, I know it may have sounded like an odd question to a lot of you...I knew of course that cells followed physical laws, but I didn't know whether or not we completely understood it yet. For example, how most of us probably believe that the brain works through physics, however mankind has a lot longer to go before we actually fully understand thoughts and how they work.
     
  11. Apr 30, 2005 #10

    selfAdjoint

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    Cell biology is sort of at the boundary where the interactions are simple enough that the physics can clearly be seen, although I expect any day now to see a paper on the total physics of the little nematode worm Caenorhabditis Elegans, about which one hell of a lot of detail is known.
     
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