Reading and discussion of historical and contemporary scientific literature at the interface between physics and the life sciences. Topics will include (1) how observations on human physiology contributed to the formulation of the laws of thermodynamics; (2) whether an intelligent being (a so-called Maxwell’s demon) could thwart the entropy increases called for in the second law of thermodynamics by sorting individual molecules using information about each molecule’s position or motion; and (3) to what extent non-classical physical phenomena such as quantum tunneling must be invoked to explain biological processes including enzyme catalysis, neuronal information processing, and consciousness.
Requisite: PHYS 116 and 117, or 123 and 124; BIOL 181; CHEM 161 or PHYS 230. Spring semester. Professor S. George.