Biophysics: Searching for Principles

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"This book is full of insights that were new to me. It explores myriad questions that are both deep background themes in biology, and also fascinating to physicists. Bialek is a dean of this field, and an inspiring teacher."—Philip Nelson, University of Pennsylvania

"Bialek's excellent book bears the stamp of both his originality and technical prowess. What I look for when I read a book is something unique that I know I won't find anywhere else. Bialek delivers that in spades on a topic of great interest to scientists of all stripes."—Rob Phillips, California Institute of Technology

"This excellent book covers very original ground, providing an authoritative overview of important problems while linking strongly to the original literature. The topics are taken from real biology but build on the standard knowledge that a physics student should have. This indeed represents a great path to train interdisciplinary scientists—without losing the discipline."—Pietro Cicuta, University of Cambridge

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
William Bialek, Winner of the 2013 Swartz Prize for Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience, Society for Neuroscience

"[T]he book goes beyond being a structured material for readers to learn about biophysics; it takes readers on an incredible journey in discovering fascinating ways in which biological phenomena can be viewed and studied. The technical adroitness and more importantly, the unique way of thinking about biological problems, in the reviewer's opinion, makes the book a must-read for any aspiring biophysicists."—Angie Ma, Contemporary Physics

"[P]hysicists who are seeking an exciting intellectual path through the complexity of biology will deeply appreciate Bialek's clear vision of the big ideas and his expert guidance through their many applications."—Stephen J. Hagen, Physics Today

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691138916
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2012
  • Pages: 456
  • Sales rank: 747,447
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 4.90 (d)

Meet the Author

William Bialek is the John Archibald Wheeler/Battelle Professor in Physics at Princeton University, where he is also a member of the multidisciplinary Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, and is Visiting Presidential Professor of Physics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the coauthor of "Spikes: Exploring the Neural Code".

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix


1. Introduction 3

  • 1.1 About Our Subject 3
  • 1.2 About This Book 11

2. Photon Counting in Vision 17

  • 2.1 A First Look 17
  • 2.2 Dynamics of Single Molecules 51
  • 2.3 Biochemical Amplification 68
  • 2.4 The First Synapse and Beyond 97
  • 2.5 Coda 115

3. Lessons, Problems, Principles 117


4. Noise Is Not Negligible 127

  • 4.1 Fluctuations and Chemical Reactions 127
  • 4.2 Motility and Chemotaxis in Bacteria 149
  • 4.3 Molecule Counting, More Generally 172
  • 4.4 More about Noise in Perception 192
  • 4.5 Proofreading and Active Noise Reduction 218
  • 4.6 Perspectives 245

5. No Fine Tuning 247

  • 5.1 Sequence Ensembles 248
  • 5.2 Ion Channels and Neuronal Dynamics 279
  • 5.3 The States of Cells 299
  • 5.4 Long Time Scales in Neural Networks 329
  • 5.5 Perspectives 349

6. Efficient Representation 353

  • 6.1 Entropy and Information 354
  • 6.2 Noise and Information Flow 369
  • 6.3 Does Biology Care about Bits? 395
  • 6.4 Optimizing Information Flow 421
  • 6.5 Gathering Information and Making Models 449
  • 6.6 Perspectives 467

7. Outlook 469

Appendix Some Further Topics 473

  • A.1 Poisson Processes 473
  • A.2 Correlations, Power Spectra, and All That 484
  • A.3 Diffraction and Biomolecular Structure 495
  • A.4 Electronic Transitions in Large Molecules 503
  • A.5 The Kramers Problem 512
  • A.6 Berg and Purcell, Revisited 521
  • A.7 Maximum Entropy 533
  • A.8 Measuring Information Transmission 545

Annotated Bibliography 557
Index 625

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