Friday, November 14, 2014

Chapter epigraphs from my book

Because of the vagaries of British copyright law and their lack of the concept of "fair use", I am not allowed to use clever little quotes to start the chapters of my nano textbook unless I have explicit permission from the person or their estate.  Rather than chasing those, I've sacrificed the quotes (with one exception, which I won't reveal here - you'll have to buy the book).  However, on my blog I'm free to display these quotes, so here they are.

  • "I would like to describe a field, in which little has been done, but in which an enormous amount can be done in principle. This field is not quite the same as the others in that it will not tell us much of fundamental physics (in the sense of, “What are the strange particles?”) but it is more like solid-state physics in the sense that it might tell us much of great interest about the strange phenomena that occur in complex situations. Furthermore, a point that is most important is that it would have an enormous number of technical applications. What I want to talk about is the problem of manipulating and controlling things on a small scale."  - Richard Feynman, "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom" lecture, Engineering and Science 23, 22 (1960)
  • "More is different." - Phil Anderson, Science 177, 393 (1972).
  • "Solid state I don’t like, even though I started it." - Wolfgang Pauli, from AIP's oral history project
  • "How do we write small? ... We have no standard technique to do this now, but let me argue that it’s not as difficult as it first appears to be." - Richard Feynman, "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom" lecture, Engineering and Science 23, 22 (1960)
  • "God made solids, but surfaces were the work of the devil." - Wolfgang Pauli,  quoted in Growth, Dissolution, and Pattern Formation in Geosystems (1999) by Bjørn Jamtveit and Paul Meakin, p. 291.
  • "The importance of the infinitely little is incalculable." - Dr. Joseph Bell, 1892 introduction to Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet
  • "Magnetism, as you recall from physics class, is a powerful force that causes certain items to be attracted to refrigerators." - Dave Barry, 1997
  • "If I were creating the world I wouldn’t mess about with butterflies and daffodils. I would have started with lasers, eight o’clock, Day One!" - Evil, Time Bandits
  • "Make big money!  Be a Quantum Mechanic!" - Tom Weller, Science Made Stupid (1985). 
  • "I am an old man now, and when I die and go to Heaven there are two matters on which I hope for enlightement. One is quantum electrodynamics and the other is the turbulent motion of fluids. And about the former I am rather more optimistic." - Horace Lamb, 1932 address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, as cited in Eames, I., and J. B. Flor. "New developments in understanding interfacial processes in turbulent flows." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 369.1937 (2011): 702-705
  • "Almost all aspects of life are engineered at the molecular level, and without understanding molecules we can only have a very sketchy understanding of life itself." - Francis Crick, What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (1988), p. 61
  • "Be a scientist, save the world!" - Rick Smalley 


Tahir said...

Hi Doug,

Very exciting! I cannot wait to read your book - when does it come out?

I am especially curious about that last quote from Crick - do you have a chapter about nanobiotechnology? I would be very interested to hear the perspective of a mesoscopic condensed matter physicist on biomolecular machines.

In particular, do you discuss nonequiilbrium thermodynamics in molecular biology, particularly as related to subjects like Brownian motors, thermodynamic information processing, or irreversible heat dissipation at the nanoscale (ala Crooks/Jarzynski), or the like? I sure hope so, and I guess I will find out once the book is out.

In the meantime, however, I would be interested to know if you have any personal opinions about this field of research? In particular, I wonder if you have an opinion on the following: From the perspective of a condensed-matter physicist, what are the some of the major unsolved open research problems concerning the nanoscale and non-equilibrium thermodynamics of biological materials? Do you have any opinions on what would be considered a big breakthrough in this area?

Thank you,

Douglas Natelson said...

Hi Tahir - The book will be out in the late spring from Cambridge. I do have a bionano chapter, but it's very basic, and trends more toward a survey of bio-based concepts and assembly w/ a little on motors. The topics you mention are great theoretical biophysics, though, and if you know of a really good treatment I'd like to know more.

I need to give some thought to your question. A friend of mine has said that the great danger of biophysics is investing tremendous intellectual horsepower in tackling some question of absolutely no interest to biologists. The general problem of nonequilibrium thermodynamics is a big deal - how to treat open systems, particularly when they have many degrees of freedom that may interact strongly with each other and the environment. I'm not sure I know enough about the state of that area to comment with any authority, though.