How Can We Apply Physics to Biology?

Bookmarked How Can We Apply Physics to Biology? by Philip Ball (nautil.us)
We don’t yet know quite what a physics of biology will consist of. But we won’t understand life without it.
This is an awesome little article with some interesting thought and philosophy on the current state of physics within biology and other related areas of study. It’s also got some snippets of history which aren’t frequently discussed in longer form texts.

Devastating News: Sol Golomb has apparently passed away on Sunday

I was getting concerned that I hadn’t heard back from Sol for a while, particularly after emailing him late last week, and then I ran across this notice through ITSOC & the IEEE:

Solomon W. Golomb (May 30, 1932 – May 1, 2016)

Shannon Award winner and long-time ITSOC member Solomon W. Golomb passed away on May 1, 2016.
Solomon W. Golomb was the Andrew Viterbi Chair in Electrical Engineering at the University of Southern California (USC) and was at USC since 1963, rising to the rank of University and Distinguished Professor. He was a member of the National Academies of Engineering and Science, and was awarded the National Medal of Science, the Shannon Award, the Hamming Medal, and numerous other accolades. As USC Dean Yiannis C. Yortsos wrote, “With unparalleled scholarly contributions and distinction to the field of engineering and mathematics, Sol’s impact has been extraordinary, transformative and impossible to measure. His academic and scholarly work on the theory of communications built the pillars upon which our modern technological life rests.”

In addition to his many contributions to coding and information theory, Professor Golomb was one of the great innovators in recreational mathematics, contributing many articles to Scientific American and other publications. More recent Information Theory Society members may be most familiar with his mathematics puzzles that appeared in the Society Newsletter, which will publish a full remembrance later.

A quick search a moment later revealed this sad confirmation along with some great photos from an award Sol received just a week ago:

As is common in academia, I’m sure it will take a few days for the news to drip out, but the world has certainly lost one of its greatest thinkers, and many of us have lost a dear friend, colleague, and mentor.

I’ll try touch base with his family and pass along what information sniff I can. I’ll post forthcoming obituaries as I see them, and will surely post some additional thoughts and reminiscences of my own in the coming days.

Golomb and national medal of science
President Barack Obama presents Solomon Golomb with the National Medal of Science at an awards ceremony held at the White House in 2013.

A Real Bowie Fan #latergram

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Instagram filter used: Crema

Tom M. Apostol, 1923–2016

Bookmarked Tom M. Apostol, 1923–2016 (CalTech Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy)
Tom M. Apostol, professor of mathematics, emeritus at California Institute of Technology passed away on May 8, 2016. He was 92.
My proverbial mathematical great-grandfather passed away yesterday.

As many know, for over a decade, I’ve been studying a variety of areas of advanced abstract mathematics with Michael Miller. Mike Miller received his Ph.D. in 1974 (UCLA) under the supervision of Basil Gordon who in turn received his Ph.D. in 1956 (CalTech) under the supervision of Tom M. Apostol.

Incidentally going back directly three generations is Markov and before that Chebyshev and two generations before that Lobachevsky.

Sadly, I never got to have Tom as a teacher directly myself, though I did get to meet him several times in (what mathematicians might call) social situations. I did have the advantage of delving into his two volumes of Calculus as well as referring to his book on Analytic Number Theory. If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at calculus, I highly recommend an evening or two by the fire with a glass of wine while you revel in Calculus, Vol 1 or Calculus, Vol 2.

It’s useful to take a moment to remember our intellectual antecedents, so in honor of Tom’s passing, I recommend the bookmarked very short obituary (I’m sure more will follow), this obituary of Basil, and this issue of the Notices of the AMS celebrating Basil as well. I also came across a copy of Fascinating Mathematical People which has a great section on Tom and incidentally includes some rare younger photos of Sol Golomb who suddenly passed away last Sunday. (It’s obviously been a tough week for me and math in Southern California this week.)

Mathematician Basil Gordon (wearing a brown sweater) sitting near Chris Aldrich
Somehow Basil Gordon (brown sweater) and I were recognized on the same day at an event for Johns Hopkins University. Later we discovered that he had overseen the Ph.D. of one of my long-time mathematics professors and he was a lifelong friend of my friend/mentor Solomon Golomb. — at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel on March 13, 2010

Michael Miller making a "handwaving argument" during a lecture on Algebraic Number Theory at UCLA on November 15, 2015. I've taken over a dozen courses from Mike in areas including Group Theory, Field Theory, Galois Theory, Group Representations, Algebraic Number Theory, Complex Analysis, Measure Theory, Functional Analysis, Calculus on Manifolds, Differential Geometry, Lie Groups and Lie Algebras, Set Theory, Differential Geometry, Algebraic Topology, Number Theory, Integer Partitions, and p-Adic Analysis.
Michael Miller making a “handwaving argument” during a lecture on Algebraic Number Theory at UCLA on November 15, 2015. I’ve taken over a dozen courses from Mike in areas including Group Theory, Field Theory, Galois Theory, Group Representations, Algebraic Number Theory, Complex Analysis, Measure Theory, Functional Analysis, Calculus on Manifolds, Differential Geometry, Lie Groups and Lie Algebras, Set Theory, Differential Geometry, Algebraic Topology, Number Theory, Integer Partitions, and p-Adic Analysis.

The L-functions and modular forms database

Bookmarked The L-functions and modular forms database by Tim Gowers (Gowers's Weblog)
...I rejoice that a major new database was launched today. It’s not in my area, so I won’t be using it, but I am nevertheless very excited that it exists. It is called the L-functions and modular forms database. The thinking behind the site is that lots of number theorists have privately done lots of difficult calculations concerning L-functions, modular forms, and related objects. Presumably up to now there has been a great deal of duplication, because by no means all these calculations make it into papers, and even if they do it may be hard to find the right paper. But now there is a big database of these objects, with a large amount of information about each one, as well as a great big graph of connections between them. I will be very curious to know whether it speeds up research in number theory: I hope it will become a completely standard tool in the area and inspire people in other areas to create databases of their own.

…I rejoice that a major new database was launched today. It’s not in my area, so I won’t be using it, but I am nevertheless very excited that it exists. It is called the L-functions and modular forms database. The thinking behind the site is that lots of number theorists have privately done lots of difficult calculations concerning L-functions, modular forms, and related objects. Presumably up to now there has been a great deal of duplication, because by no means all these calculations make it into papers, and even if they do it may be hard to find the right paper. But now there is a big database of these objects, with a large amount of information about each one, as well as a great big graph of connections between them. I will be very curious to know whether it speeds up research in number theory: I hope it will become a completely standard tool in the area and inspire people in other areas to create databases of their own.

–Tim Gowers

Nick Lane and Philip Ball Discuss Mitochondria, Sex, and How to Live Longer

Bookmarked Nick Lane and Philip Ball Discuss Mitochondria, Sex, and How to Live Longer by Philip Ball (Nautil.us)
In his 2010 book, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution, Nick Lane, a biochemist at University College London, explores with eloquence and clarity the big questions of life: how it began, why we age and die, and why we have sex. Lane been steadily constructing an alternative view of evolution to the one in which genes explain it all. He argues that some of the major events during evolutionary history, including the origin of life itself, are best understood by considering where the energy comes from and how it is used. Lane describes these ideas in his 2015 book, The Vital Question: Why Is Life the Way It Is?. Recently Bill Gates called it “an amazing inquiry into the origins of life,” adding, Lane “is one of those original thinkers who make you say: More people should know about this guy’s work.” Nautilus caught up with Lane in his laboratory in London and asked him about his ideas on aging, sex, and death.
Biochemist Nick Lane explains the elements of life, sex, and aging in an engaging popular science interview.

Read more

Books by Nick Lane

Matter, energy… knowledge: How to harness physics’ demonic power | New Scientist

Bookmarked Matter, energy… knowledge: How to harness physics' demonic power (New Scientist)
Running a brain-twisting thought experiment for real shows that information is a physical thing – so can we now harness the most elusive entity in the cosmos?
This is a nice little overview article of some of the history of thermodynamics relating to information in physics and includes some recent physics advances as well. There are a few references to applications in biology at the micro level as well.

References

Ceiling with great lighting hardware #design #architecture

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Instagram filter used: Rise

Photo taken at: Macy’s

The proprietor at the local piñata place says these are empty. #BeatTrump

The proprietor at the local piñata place says these are empty. #BeatTrump

The proprietor at the local piñata place says these are empty. #BeatTrump

Instagram filter used: Hefe

Photo taken at: Juniors Discount

Checkin Fusion Burgers

Noir burger, onion rings, sweet potato fries (with cinnamon), and Americana root beer and black cherry soda

Big History Summer Reading List | Big History Project

Replied to Big History Summer Reading List (blog.bighistoryproject.com)
The best part of teaching Big History is that we’re always learning right alongside our students. As the year winds down here in the US, many BHP teachers are looking for books to take with them to the beach, the mountains, or wherever they choose to unwind this summer. We asked our teacher leaders for their favorite books related to Big History and this list is what they came up with.

I’ve got a lot of these on my big history book list on GoodReads.com
It also looks like a lot of these are things that Bill Gates has been reading too!