Physics & Astronomy
W10 Biophysics. Biophysics is a growing discipline in which the tools and accomplishments of physics are used to examine and elucidate the behavior of biological systems. This particular course is a smorgasbord of different topics in biophysics. Scaling laws are used to help explain why ants can easily lift many times their own weight, but human beings strain at loads that are a mere fraction of their own weight. Fluid flow is used in examining why the wingbeat frequency of flying animals generally increases as the size of the animal decreases. Random walks and diffusion are examined and their impact on cell size is discussed. An additional feature of the course is that no calculators are used. All results will be achieved by approximation and a portion of the course is devoted to helping students develop their skills in estimation. The class is highly participatory, as students are asked to make and justify estimations in the classroom as the material is developed. In addition to a multitude of scheduled topics, there is also the freedom to investigate topics ‘on the fly'. The hope is that students will make the art of estimation and the application of physical reasoning to biophysical systems their own, so that they can draw on these skills in the future. In addition to the above items, there is also a section devoted to the construction of simple biophysical simulations using Mathematica, though no previous experience is required. Students will complete homework assignments, tests, and work on simulations in the class. The course is designed to be accessible to any student with at least a semester of algebra based college physics or a year of algebra based high school physics. There are no fees. P. Harper. 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.