Biophysics: Searching for Principles

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ISBN-13: 978-0691138916
ISBN-10: 0691138915
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Hardcover, October 28, 2012
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Editorial Reviews


William Bialek, Winner of the 2013 Swartz Prize for Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience, Society for Neuroscience

"[T]he book goes beyond being a structured material for readers to learn about biophysics; it takes readers on an incredible journey in discovering fascinating ways in which biological phenomena can be viewed and studied. The technical adroitness and more importantly, the unique way of thinking about biological problems, in the reviewer's opinion, makes the book a must-read for any aspiring biophysicists."--Angie Ma, Contemporary Physics

"[P]hysicists who are seeking an exciting intellectual path through the complexity of biology will deeply appreciate Bialek's clear vision of the big ideas and his expert guidance through their many applications."--Stephen J. Hagen, Physics Today

"The book is well crafted, linking the historic work of the 'giants', e.g. Helmholtz with his seminal view of vision and hearing, with latest and trendy research, exemplified by the use of information theory in biology."--Robert Endres, Biological Physics Group Newsletter

From the Back Cover

"This book is full of insights that were new to me. It explores myriad questions that are both deep background themes in biology, and also fascinating to physicists. Bialek is a dean of this field, and an inspiring teacher."--Philip Nelson, University of Pennsylvania

"Bialek's excellent book bears the stamp of both his originality and technical prowess. What I look for when I read a book is something unique that I know I won't find anywhere else. Bialek delivers that in spades on a topic of great interest to scientists of all stripes."--Rob Phillips, California Institute of Technology

"This excellent book covers very original ground, providing an authoritative overview of important problems while linking strongly to the original literature. The topics are taken from real biology but build on the standard knowledge that a physics student should have. This indeed represents a great path to train interdisciplinary scientists--without losing the discipline."--Pietro Cicuta, University of Cambridge


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (October 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691138915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691138916
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 8.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #460,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Pichierri Fabio on April 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Cahill on December 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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 The Kindle edition is even worse than the PUP hardcover: the equations are image files which don't scale.
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