Why Physics is Awesome

One common application of the atomic force microscopes that we make is to measure properties of bio-molecules. AFM’s have long been used to image DNA strands, but the more interesting work is when you functionalize the probe, and then try to “pick up” a bio-molecule (like a protein).

I am working on definition of improvements to our analysis software, and since I know squat about biology, I found a series of lecture notes from UIUC’s Bio Physics course. I am flying through the early lectures, getting the correct mindset, and it dawns on me. Physics is everywhere, and it is always useful.

In the second lecture, the discussion goes to molecular reactions, and to define the probability of a reaction happening you need to measure the probability of finding a set of constituent molecules in the right state.

How do you do that? Oh yeah, the Partition Function from statistical mechanics. Bang, suddenly I “get it”.  Of course I took Stat Mech close to 20 years ago, so it is a bit rusty, but the application of the formula is simple enough.

One more comment. I do not know the lecturer, but from his lecture presentations/notes, I am sure I would like him.

I don’t know enough to understand the WLC model of protein unfolding, but I will soon.

Leave a Comment