5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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The content of this book merits six stars. The author wrote for students of physics and did not hide the mathematics or the physics, which is the usual lamentable practice in books on biophysics.
But Princeton University Press turned a fine manuscript into a nearly useless hardcover. PUP used outer margins that are more than two inches wide and inner margins that are scarcely wider than half an inch. The text therefore is crammed into the gutter. Readers must follow each line of text as it curves and dives into the spine of the book.
To make matters worse, the book weighs 4.4 pounds. This heft may be fine for sumo wrestlers, but it makes reading the book awkward.
People should avoid the hardcover edition and buy instead an e-book edition from eBooks.com. The Kindle edition is even worse than the PUP hardcover: the equations are image files which don't scale.
9 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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The aim of the author, Dr. William Bialek of Princeton University, is that of searching for the principles of a theoretical physics of biological systems (in short, theoretical biophysics). Accordingly, this can be done by employing (mainly) the concepts of statistical mechanics together with a good knowledge of biology, its complex structures, and relevant experiments. The search takes the form of a tour whereby in many places the author speaks directly to the reader (for example, page 265: "To appreciate this approach you need to know...."). After an introductory chapter (Ch.1), the tour takes off at Chapter 2 with the biophysics of photon counting processes of human vision. Early physiology experiments carried out in the 1940s are discussed in great detail as well as the 3D structure of the eyes (including those of insects) and rod and cone cells down to the molecular-level workings of the protein rhodopsin and its cofactor (retinal).
Next, after a short interlude-summary (Ch. 3), three candidate principles of theoretical biophysics are laid down: the importance of noise in the functioning of biological devices such as the cells of the retina (Ch. 4), the fact that fine tuning of parameters is not important for biological systems (Ch. 5), and the fundamental role of information transfer (Ch. 6). Of the three principles, I must admit that the most challenging and difficult to understand for me is the second, no fine tuning. In principle, biological systems know nothing about parameters, only we know about them when building a mathematical model of a biological phenomena. Hence, it could be that the fine-tuning principle arises from the models themselves but, perhaps, there might be a deeper principle connected to the physical constraints imposed by the biological superstructures (think about the eye) that characterize living organisms. Both scientists as well as the young minds of brilliant students will have to think very deeply about the three principles and contribute their own idea to the field. These candidate principles, therefore, represent a great stimuli for further research.
Chapter 7 (Outlook) is followed by an Appendix where further topics (Poisson processes, diffraction and biological structures, maximum entropy, etc.) are discussed in detail. The book is interspersed with 200 problems, many of which require the writing of small computer codes (Matlab is suggested by the author although any high-level language will do), distributed as follows:
Ch. 1: 0 problems
Ch. 2: 39
Ch. 3: 0
Ch. 4: 47
Ch. 5: 36
Ch. 6: 47
Ch. 7: 0
App. : 31
It is obvious that an in-depth, serious study of this 600+ pages tome and solution of its 200 problems will require a lot of effort and time but it is worth spending such time both to the would be theoretical biophysicist and to professional scientists (biophysicists or not) with an inclination toward quantitative biology. From this original book one can truly appreciate the approach adopted by a professional physicist toward solving complex biological problems. The book ends with an annotated bibliography where important references about theory and experiments are listed. A complementary book with a traditional exposition of Biophysics is that of Dr. Roland Glaser (now in its 2-nd edition).