The physics of life: one molecule at a time

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences
Mark C Leake

Abstract

The esteemed physicist Erwin Schrödinger, whose name is associated with the most notorious equation of quantum mechanics, also wrote a brief essay entitled 'What is Life?', asking: 'How can the events in space and time which take place within the spatial boundary of a living organism be accounted for by physics and chemistry?' The 60+ years following this seminal work have seen enormous developments in our understanding of biology on the molecular scale, with physics playing a key role in solving many central problems through the development and application of new physical science techniques, biophysical analysis and rigorous intellectual insight. The early days of single-molecule biophysics research was centred around molecular motors and biopolymers, largely divorced from a real physiological context. The new generation of single-molecule bioscience investigations has much greater scope, involving robust methods for understanding molecular-level details of the most fundamental biological processes in far more realistic, and technically challenging, physiological contexts, emerging into a new field of 'single-molecule cellular biophysics'. Here, I outline how this new field has evolved, discuss the key active areas of current ...Continue Reading

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