A biophysicist reveals the hidden unity behind nature’s breathtaking complexity
The form and function of a sprinting cheetah are quite unlike those of a rooted tree. A human being is very different from a bacterium or a zebra. The living world is a realm of dazzling variety, yet a shared set of physical principles shapes the forms and behaviors of every creature in it. So Simple a Beginning shows how the emerging new science of biophysics is transforming our understanding of life on Earth and enabling potentially lifesaving but controversial technologies such as gene editing, artificial organ growth, and ecosystem engineering.
Raghuveer Parthasarathy explains how four basic principles-self-assembly, regulatory circuits, predictable randomness, and scaling-shape the machinery of life on scales ranging from microscopic molecules to gigantic elephants. He describes how biophysics is helping to unlock the secrets of a host of natural phenomena, such as how your limbs know to form at the proper places, and why humans need lungs but ants do not. Parthasarathy explores how the cutting-edge biotechnologies of tomorrow could enable us to alter living things in ways both subtle and profound.
Featuring dozens of original watercolors and drawings by the author, this sweeping tour of biophysics offers astonishing new perspectives on how the wonders of life can arise from so simple a beginning.
"Hands down the most beautiful book I’ve ever read. . . . The intersection of biology and physics might be the most underappreciated cross-over in the sciences."---Nicole Barbaro, Bookmarked
"The author's style is mostly captivating, and the illustrations provide unique support . . . Parthasarathy's commitment regarding the importance of education about scientific discovery and its place in today's world is evident throughout."---F. W. Yow, Choice
“Deft and engaging. Parthasarathy constantly finds the metaphors that best illuminate his subject. And what a subject-a perfect mix of the latest exciting new work with classic results needed to understand it. Every chapter gives an original view from a wide-ranging intellect, and unifies ideas that are rarely presented together.”-Philip Nelson, author of From Photon to Neuron: Light, Imaging, Vision
“Parthasarathy presents an accessible yet scientifically accurate picture of modern biology, and it’s a pleasure to read.”-Sonia Contera, author of Nano Comes to Life
“Parthasarathy has given readers a delightful narrative guide to the exciting and important ways in which physics and biology come together to help us understand living matter. I found myself learning something new in every chapter and loved the fun case studies, constant insights, and captivating illustrations.”-Rob Phillips, author of The Molecular Switch: Signaling and Allostery
About the Author
Raghuveer Parthasarathy is the Alec and Kay Keith Professor of Physics at the University of Oregon, where he is a member of the Institute of Molecular Biology and the Materials Science Institute. He lives in Eugene, Oregon. Website eighteenthelephant.com Twitter @RParthasarathy7