How to Integrate Biology With Chemistry & Physics | Sciencing
Chemistry and physics are both physical sciences and are both interested in the structure of matter. Relationships Between Physical & Life Sciences . space sciences, as well as life sciences like biology, social sciences. Chemistry and physics are branches of science that both study matter. The difference between the two lies in their scope and approach. Chemists and physicists. Biology is the study of living organisms. Physics is the study of matter and the laws of nature to understand the behavior of matter and the universe.
Mayr made perhaps the most concerted attempt by any biologist to draw clear disciplinary boundaries around his subject, smartly isolating it from other fields of science. In doing so, he supplies one of the clearest demonstrations of the folly of that endeavor. He identifies four fundamental features of physics that distinguish it from biology. It is essentialist dividing the world into sharply delineated and unchanging categories, such as electrons and protons ; it is deterministic this always necessarily leads to that ; it is reductionist you understand a system by reducing it to its components ; and it posits universal natural laws, which in biology are undermined by chance, randomness, and historical contingency.
Comparison of chemistry and physics
Any physicists will tell you that this characterization of physics is thoroughly flawed, as a passing familiarity with quantum theory, chaos, and complexity would reveal. Ernst Mayr argued that general theories from physics would be unlikely to be of great use in biology.
But the genetic networks and protein molecules and complex architectures of cells are shaped by the exigencies of survival: Its components and structures play a role in the survival of the organism and the propagation of genes. Apparent purpose arises from Darwinian adaptation to the environment. How does this depend on, say, the rate of replication, the fidelity of the copying process and the level of random noise in the system, the strength of selective pressure, the relationship between the inheritable information and the traits they govern genotype and phenotypeand so on?
Evolutionary biologists have mathematical models to investigate these things, but doing calculations tells you little without a general framework to relate it to. That general framework is the physics of evolution. It might be mapped out in terms of, say, threshold values of the variables above which a qualitatively new kind of global behavior appears: The theoretical chemist Peter Schuster and his coworkers have found such a threshold in the error rate of genetic copying, below which the information contained in the replicating genome remains stable.
In other words, above this error rate there can be no identifiable species as such: But England says that they might be regarded in their most basic form as an ability of a particular system to persist in the face of a constant throughput of energy by suppressing big fluctuations and dissipating that energy: There is nothing at all chauvinistic, from a disciplinary perspective, about calling these fundamental ideas and theories the physics of the problem.
We just need to rescue the word from its departmental definition, and the academic turf wars that come with it. British mathematician Alan Turing proposed a general approach to pattern formation in chemical and biological systems.
Why Physics Is Not a Discipline
We need to move beyond attempts like those of Mayr to demarcate and defend the boundaries. What is being articulated here is an ability to look beyond mathematical descriptions or details of this or that interaction, and to work out the underlying concepts involved—often very general ones that can be expressed concisely in non-mathematical, perhaps even colloquial, language. Physics in this sense is not a fixed set of procedures, nor does it alight on a particular class of subject matter.
It is a way of thinking about the world: This kind of thinking can come from any scientist, whatever his or her academic label. These are spontaneous patterns that arise in a mathematical model of diffusing chemicals, devised by mathematician Alan Turing in to account for the generation of form and order in embryos.
Once we move past the departmental definition of physics, the walls around other disciplines become more porous, to positive effect. One of the key issues here is causation: In what directions does information flow? One thing this work, and that of Wagner, Schuster, and Eigen, suggests is that the way DNA and genetic networks connect to the maintenance and evolution of living organisms can only be fully understood once we have a better grasp of the physics of information itself.
Critical points are well known in physical systems like magnetism, liquid mixtures, and superfluids.
umdberg / The disciplines: Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Math ()
That can help a biological system to adapt very rapidly to change: A flock of birds or a school of fish can respond very quickly to the approach of a predator, say. Criticality can also provide an information-gathering mechanism. Criticality may be everywhere.
Examples like these give us confidence that biology does have a physics to it. Chemistry, on the other hand, focuses on what compounds are present in a sample, and explores how changing the structure of molecules will change their reactivity and their physical properties. Physics can be divided into experimental and theoretical physics. Historically, theoretical physics has correctly predicted phenomena that were out of experimental reach at the time, and could be verified only after experimental techniques caught up.
Training[ edit ] In a typical undergraduate program for physics majors, required courses are in the sub-disciplines of physics, with additional required courses in mathematics. Because much of the insight of physics is described by differential equations relating matter, space, and time for example Newton's law of motion and the Maxwell equations of electromagnetismstudents have to be familiar with differential equations.
In a typical undergraduate program for chemistry majors, emphasis is placed on laboratory classes and understanding and applying models describing chemical bonds and molecular structure. Emphasis is also placed in the methods for analysis and the formulas and equations used when considering the chemical transformation. Students take courses in math, physics, chemistry, and often biochemistry. Between the two programs of study, there is a large area of overlap calculusintroductory physics, quantum mechanicsthermodynamics.
However, physics places a larger emphasis on fundamental theory with its deep mathematical treatment while chemistry places more emphasis in combining the most important mathematical definitions of the theory with the approach of the molecular models. Laboratory skills may differ in both programs, as students may be involved in different technologies, depending on the program and the institution of higher education for example, a chemistry student may spend more laboratory time dealing with glassware for distillation and purification or on a form of chromatography - spectroscopy instrument, while a physics student may spend much more time dealing with a laser and non-linear optics technology or some complex electrical circuit.
Careers in chemistry and physics[ edit ] According to Bureau of Labor Statistics United States Department of Laborthere are 80, chemists and 17, physicists working in the United States as of May Chemistry is the only science that has an entire industry, the chemical industrynamed after it, and many chemists work in this industry, in research and developmentproduction, training, or management.