The form and function of a sprinting cheetah are quite unlike those of a rooted tree. A human being is very different from a bacterium or a zebra. The living world is a realm of dazzling variety, yet a shared set of physical principles shapes the forms and behaviours of every creature in it. So Simple a Beginning shows how the emerging new science of biophysics is transforming our understanding of life on Earth and enabling potentially lifesaving but controversial technologies such as gene editing, artificial organ growth, and ecosystem engineering.
Raghuveer Parthasarathy explains how four basic principles – self-assembly, regulatory circuits, predictable randomness, and scaling – shape the machinery of life on scales ranging from microscopic molecules to gigantic elephants. He describes how biophysics is helping to unlock the secrets of a host of natural phenomena, such as how your limbs know to form at the proper places, and why humans need lungs but ants do not. Parthasarathy explores how the cutting-edge biotechnologies of tomorrow could enable us to alter living things in ways both subtle and profound.
Featuring dozens of original watercolours and drawings by the author, this sweeping tour of biophysics offers astonishing new perspectives on how the wonders of life can arise from so simple a beginning.
Raghuveer Parthasarathy is the Alec and Kay Keith Professor of Physics at the University of Oregon, where he is a member of the Institute of Molecular Biology and the Materials Science Institute. He lives in Eugene, Oregon.