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Proceedings Paper • Open Access

Toy Story: what I have learned from playing with toys about the physics of living cells
Author(s): Robert H. Austin

Paper Abstract

Yogi Berra once noted that "You can observe a lot just by watching." A similar remark can be made about toys: you can learn a lot of physics by playing with certain children's toys, and given that physics also applies to life, you could hope that it would also be possible to learn about the physics of living cells by close observation of toys, loosely defined. I'll start out with a couple of toys, rubber duckies and something called a soliton machine and discuss insights (or failures) in how "energy" moves in biological molecules. I'll bring back the rubber duckies and a toy suggested by one of the eccentrics known to roam the halls of academia to discuss how this lead to studies how cells move and collective aspects of cell movement. Then I'll talk about mazes and how they lead to experiments on evolution and cancer. Hopefully this broad range of toys will show how indeed "You can observe a lot just by watching" about some of the fundamental physics of living cells.

Paper Details

Date Published: 11 February 2011
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 7929, Microfluidics, BioMEMS, and Medical Microsystems IX, 792902 (11 February 2011); doi: 10.1117/12.882723
Show Author Affiliations
Robert H. Austin, Princeton Univ. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7929:
Microfluidics, BioMEMS, and Medical Microsystems IX
Holger Becker; Bonnie L. Gray, Editor(s)

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