Biology needs a Grothendieck (or at least a Hilbert) Original author here - I just discovered this thread.
Thanks so much for all the comments! Some context behind why I wrote this post: as a researcher and technologist in biology, I've realized that it's unclear to me what the real questions are; that this lack of clarity is not due to my immaturity; and the field seems dangerously aimless. >99% of the time, work is justified (and finished) with some application to health and medicine, with little regard for theory building or true understanding of a system. Bringing up this point usually solicits two responses: 1) we don't have enough data yet 2) there's little use for theory in biology. I hope I can give more in depth responses where I see these themes in other comments, but I'll generalize my thoughts here. First, how do we judge what questions are worth asking and researching, vs trivial details?
Second, I'd argue biology has historically been very theoretical. Alexander Grothendieck. I’m a (50%) professor of mathematics and (50%) professor of molecular & cell biology at UC Berkeley.
There have been plenty of days when I have spent the working hours with biologists and then gone off at night with some mathematicians. I mean that literally. I have had, of course, intimate friends among both biologists and mathematicians. I think it is through living among these groups and much more, I think, through moving regularly from one to the other and back again that I have become occupied with the problem that I’ve christened to myself as the ‘two cultures’. For constantly I feel that I am moving among two groups- comparable in intelligence, identical in race, not grossly different in social origin, earning about the same incomes, who have almost ceased to communicate at all, who in intellectual, moral and psychological climate have so little in common that instead of crossing the campus from Evans Hall to the Li Ka Shing building, I may as well have crossed an ocean.1 for .
Alexander Grothendieck. Catalogue of Life. Biological Research - Dimensional analysis revisited. Dimensional analysis revisited BRUNO GÜNTHER a and ENRIQUE MORGADO b, c * a Professor Emeritus of Physiology and Physiopathology, Universidad de Concepción and Universidad de Valparaíso, Chile b Programa de Fisiopatología, Facultad de Ciencias Médicas, Universidad de Santiago de Chile, Santiago, Chile c Programa de Fisiopatología, Instituto de Ciencias Biomédicas, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Chile, Salvador 486, Casilla 16038, Santiago, Chile E-mail: email@example.com * Corresponding author.
Received: June 9, 2003. Accepted: September 10, 2003 The applicability of dimensional analysis (DA) is discussed in relation to the metabolic scaling laws. Key terms: Dimensional analysis. In accordance with Rosen (1983): "the essence of similarity leads to some of the deepest issues in all of science, as for instance when physiological data are compared with theoretical models of mathematical, chemical, physical or biological nature. " A New Thermodynamics Theory of the Origin of Life. Why does life exist?
Popular hypotheses credit a primordial soup, a bolt of lightning and a colossal stroke of luck. But if a provocative new theory is correct, luck may have little to do with it. Instead, according to the physicist proposing the idea, the origin and subsequent evolution of life follow from the fundamental laws of nature and “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.” From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. Kristian Peters Cells from the moss Plagiomnium affine with visible chloroplasts, organelles that conduct photosynthesis by capturing sunlight.
Courtesy of Jeremy England Wilson Bentley. Intrication quantique, base ADN de la vie? Les discussions autour de la mécanique quantique ont le plus souvent un caractère quelque peu abstrait: les effets quantiques ne sont pas vraiment perceptibles en tant que tels dans notre monde classique, et les considérations d’intrication, de fonctions d’ondes et de définition du réel ne semblent pas très liés à ce que nous avons de plus cher, à savoir la vie elle-même.
La vie, cette chose humide et chaude, évolutive, déclinée sous tant de facettes de la science, semble bien ne pas devoir trop se préoccuper de la manière dont les photons et autres bosons s’amusent dans leur monde probabiliste et mathématique. Et pourtant. Nous savons depuis la fameuse découverte de l’acide désoxyribonucléique par le biologiste Jim Watson et le physicien James Crick, en 1953, que la vie se constitue sur base de gènes et que ceux-ci dépendent d’une molécule très particulière en double hélice à l’acronyme universellement connu, l’ADN.