Can cells be reduced to physics?

In summary: But for the most part, the interactions between molecules are too complex for us to see directly without the help of sophisticated equipment.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. But for the most part, the interactions between molecules are too complex for us to see directly without the help of sophisticated equipment.
  • #1
KingNothing
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4
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.
 
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  • #2
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[/URL] just follow the blue hyperlink and explore.
 
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  • #3
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)
 
  • #4
KingNothing said:
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?

As has been mentioned, yes. Biology doesn't invoke magic. Physical laws apply to biological systems.
 
  • #5
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.
 
  • #6
I know a lot about cell and cellular biology, and I can safely say that everthing, like cell processes, happen through physics.
 
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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.
 
  • #8
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:
 
  • #9
Moonbear said:
As has been mentioned, yes. Biology doesn't invoke magic. Physical laws apply to biological systems.

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.
 
  • #10
KingNothing said:
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.

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.
 

Related to Can cells be reduced to physics?

1. Can cells be reduced to physics?

Yes, cells can be reduced to physics. This is because cells are made up of molecules, which are in turn made up of atoms. Atoms are governed by the laws of physics, such as the laws of motion and the laws of thermodynamics. Therefore, understanding the physical properties and behaviors of atoms can help us understand the behavior and functions of cells.

2. How does physics play a role in cell function and behavior?

Physics plays a crucial role in understanding cell function and behavior. The movement of molecules and organelles within cells, as well as the transport of substances in and out of cells, are all governed by physical principles such as diffusion, osmosis, and active transport. The structure and function of cell membranes, which are essential for maintaining the cell's internal environment, are also influenced by the physics of fluid dynamics and surface tension.

3. Can physics help us understand diseases at the cellular level?

Yes, physics can provide valuable insights into diseases at the cellular level. For example, studying the physical properties of cancer cells can help us understand how they behave differently from healthy cells, which can inform the development of new treatments. Additionally, techniques such as biophysics and bioengineering can be used to investigate the mechanical properties of cells and tissues, which can be altered in various diseases.

4. Are there any limitations to using physics to study cells?

While physics can provide a fundamental understanding of cell behavior, it has its limitations. Cells are complex systems that also involve biochemical and biological processes, which cannot be fully explained by physics alone. Therefore, an interdisciplinary approach that combines physics with other fields, such as biology and chemistry, is often necessary to fully understand cellular processes.

5. How can studying cells at the atomic level benefit other fields of science?

Studying cells at the atomic level can have numerous benefits for other fields of science. For example, understanding the structure and function of proteins within cells can inform drug development for various diseases. Additionally, advancements in nanotechnology, which involves manipulating materials at the atomic level, can have applications in medicine, energy production, and other areas of science.

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