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What is biophysics?

Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science where biology and physics come together to apply physical concepts to the study of living organisms and biological systems. While in principle one might think that this dynamic puts physics at the service of biology, but not the other way around, the reality is that physics also benefits from biological application because this often offers empirical tests for its theories.

How did biophysics come about?

The term biophysics was created in 1892 by the English scientist Karl Pearson, who was also the creator of biostatistics. The popularity of this discipline increased in 1944, thanks to the publication of the informative lectures of Erwin Schrödinger under the title What Is Life?.

After an extensive period of hyper-specialization in science, the 21st century is expected to be shaped by interdisciplinarity. As for biological sciences, biologists, physicists, and chemists will increasingly work together, along with engineers, computer scientists, and programmers.

What are the areas of biophysics?

The areas of study within biophysics are as wide-ranging as the topics they examine. Some of the most well-known branches of biophysics include:

  • Molecular biology: as the name suggests, it looks at biological phenomena based on molecular properties. Nucleic acids and proteins are its main object of study; these two macromolecules are fundamental for life.
  • Biomechanics: it focuses on the mechanical structures within living organisms and studies their function, structure, and movement. Anatomy, physiology, physics, mechanics, engineering, and biobionics come together in this branch of biophysics. Heart valves and prostheses are examples of biomechanical solutions.
  • Bioelectromagnetism: it studies the magnetic fields produced by living beings. Bioelectromagnetism is different from biomagnetism (the pseudoscience that uses static magnetic fields as a therapeutic method) and bioelectromagnetics (which studies the effect of external electromagnetism on living organisms).
  • Bioacoustics: it studies everything to do with sound and living organisms, including its production, dispersion, and reception.

What applications are there for biophysics?

The main area for applying biophysics is medicine; most of the studies and research carried out in this field have improving medicine as their ultimate goal. However, another major branch of application has to do with understanding the animal and plant world and, by extension, understanding ecosystems, so it is also tied to ecology.

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