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Basic Biology for Born Engineers

Living Mosaics

Author(s): Guenter Albrecht-Buehler

Book Description

Physics owes much of its success to the application of differential calculus. Correspondingly, most laws of physics are formulated as differential equations. This success has created the prejudice that a science cannot be ‘exact’ unless it stands firmly on a foundation of calculus.

This doesn’t, however, work for biology. Living things are not as continuous, let alone differentiable, as most organisms and their parts change or end quite abruptly. Biology cannot offer differential equations for (say) the role of chromosomal telomeres in aging, or a link between macrophage polyploidy and cancer. The information flow between the limbic system and the frontal cortex is far too erratic to permit differentiation. The pheromone secretions that control the social order of ants follow no mathematical laws. The topology of the human skeleton is neither a perfect sphere, nor an idealized doughnut. However, all these and countless other biological phenomena decide life and death and are amazingly exact

As such, instead of even trying to paint living things with the exquisitely resolving brush of differential calculus, we may accept that they are actually made up of individual and sizable ‘pixels’. Hence, this book presents a novel view of biology as the unified science of ‘living mosaics’, which consist of discrete, yet interacting, ‘tiles’, which, in turn, are such ‘mosaics’ in their own rights.


ISBN-13: 978-1-5275-1673-1
ISBN-10: 1-5275-1673-3
Date of Publication: 01/12/2018
Pages / Size: 401 / A5
Price: £67.99


Guenter Albrecht-Buehler, is the Robert Laughlin Rae Professor Emeritus at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University, USA. Initially trained as a physicist, he received his PhD from the Technische Universität in Munich. His research interests shifted to biology, especially to the study of the locomotion of animal cells, particularly significant for the understanding and treatment of malignancies. While working at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, he discovered that the cytoskeletal structures and motile behaviors of sister cells were mirror images of each other, which suggested that the motile behaviour of individual cells was not random, but, rather, pre-determined and realized by an unknown cellular control mechanism. In 1988, he was elected as a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin, and as a Fellow of the European Academy of Sciences in Brussels in 2002.