Sunday, January 30, 2011

Do biologists and physicists need each other?

Do biologists really need physicists and mathematicians? Will the need increase in the next few decades? What are the landmark contributions of quantitative methods to biology? Seth Olsen brought to my attention an article, Mathematics is Biology's Next Microscope, Only Better; Biology is Mathematics Next Physics, Only Better by Joel E. Cohen.
It is worth reading, especially because it has lists of

  • Mathematics arising from Biological Problems [Important historical contributions]
  • 5 Biological challenges that could stimulate, and benefit from, major innovations in mathematics
  • 5 Mathematical challenges that would contribute to the progress of Biology
  • Important references.
Here are a few random comments.

I am not sure I agree with the title. I would say the point is more:
Quantitative methods are Biology's next microscope.
Biological physics is the next playground for emergent concepts and model.
Quantitative biology may lead to some interesting new applied mathematics.

It is a worry that the vast majority of the list of mathematical contributions to biological problems involves contributions from more than 50 years ago. 


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