Originally developed for the author’s course at Union College, this text is directed at life science students who need to understand the connections of fundamental physics to modern biology and medicine. Almost all areas of modern life sciences integrally involve physics in both experimental techniques and in basic understanding of process and function. Each chapter has three types of learning aides for the student: open-ended questions, multiple-choice questions, and quantitative problems. In addition, there are a number of worked examples, averaging over five per chapter, and almost 450 photos and line drawings to illustrate concepts, many in full color. Physics of the Life Sciences is not a watered-down, algebra-based engineering physics book with sections on relevant biomedical topics added as an afterthought. The text fully integrates biology, biophysics and medical techniques into the presentation of modern physics, and was written with a thoroughgoing commitment to the needs and interests of life science students.
While covering most of the standard topics that are included in introductory physics texts for this audience, the author gives added weight and space to topics that have more relevance to the life sciences. The material is designed to be covered in a two-semester course. Although students may have studied some calculus and can benefit from occasional sidebars using calculus to derive fundamental relations, only algebra and trigonometry are used to explore the basic physical concepts in the main body of the text and to solve the end-of-chapter problems. The order of topics follows a more or less traditional sequence. Rather than optional sections at the end of certain chapters, life science themes are plentiful and integral to the material throughout. Examples include:
- the early introduction of diffusion as an example of motion (full section in Chapter 3);
- The early introduction of motion in a viscous fluid as an example of one-dimensional motion, development of Hooke’s law and elasticity with applications to biomaterials and viscoelasticity, and protein structure and molecular dynamics calculations (all in Chapter 4);
- Examples of rotational motion kinematics of a bacteria and of a rotary motor protein, the atomic force microscope, rotational diffusion and cell membrane dynamics (all in Chapter 8);
- A chapter (14) with a molecular discussion of entropy, a section on Gibbs free energy, and a section on biological applications of statistical thermodynamics.
- Chapters (15-16) on electric forces, fields and energy with sections on electrophoresis, macromolecular charges in solution, modern electrophoresis methods, electrostatic applications to native and synthetic macromolecules, an introduction of capacitors entirely through a discussion of cell membranes, and sections on membrane channels and electric potential mapping of the human body: heart, muscle and brain
- Chapters on electromagnetic induction and waves (19 - 20) that includes discussion of MEG (magnetoencephalography) using SQUIDs, an entire section on NMR, a section on magnetic resonance imaging, a section on laser tweezers; a section on the quantum theory of radiation concepts (re-visited later); and a section on the interaction of radiation with matter - a primer on spectroscopy, including absorption spectroscopy, scattering, and fluorescence
- Four chapters (21-24) on optics include a section on optical fibers and their applications in medicine, a section on the human eye, sections on the new light microscopies – dark field, fluorescence, phase contrast, DIC, confocal and multi-photon methods – and a discussion of polarization in biology, a sections on electron microscopy and computed tomography (CT) methods.