netization—from microscopics to the magnetic phase transition; the liquid-gas interface; handedness of quartz crystals

  • Spontaneous dynamical pattern formation (wind-driven surface waves in water, stripe formation in sedimentation, circulation patterns in water heated from below, the BZ reaction, slime mold aggregation)

  • Chaos and periodicity; chaotic systems in physics (coupled oscillators, onset of turbulence) and in biology (population dynamics, heartbeat)

  • Electromagnetism and magnetic properties of matter: B, H, dipole fields, forces on magnetized particles, how fMRI originates from magnetic properties of hemoglobin; magnetic bacteria and nerve cells.

The panel envisions the teaching of a one-year course derived from the physics concepts in the body of the report. Some portions of such an introductory physics course could be relatively conventional. The course might well begin with classical mechanics (because it is the basis for a kinetic understanding of chemistry). Gravity would be included—not because it is historic and conventional (which it is) but because it is an excellent pedagogical subject for understanding mechanics. The course might initially treat heat in the usual fashion as the “byproduct” of dissipative forces and explore the second law of thermodynamics from the conventional 19th-century viewpoint. However, added to the chosen subset of topics from today’s introductory physics is a focus on the parts of physics relevant to biology at the molecular level, and on aspects of macrocsopic physics relevant to biological functions. A totally different pedagogy, of more relevance to molecular biology, beginning at the microscopic level, might be developed as an alternative course of study. The level of the course would depend to some degree on the amount of material students have already learned in their high school science courses.

The existence of superb simulation tools for visualizing the predictions of a set of physics equations should be strongly used in homework problem sets. These tools free the student from the tyranny of only considering the limited “special problems” that are exactly solvable, allow the student to experiment beyond their ability to carry out the manipulations of classical mathematics, are wonderful tools any time statistical ideas are a part of the physics, and, in addition, are now important tools for any scientist. These tools can be introduced as almost “canned programs,” but the progress through the year should require more and more ability of the students to alter parts of the programs, and ultimately to generate their own programs.

The list of concepts in the body of the report has been trimmed to be

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