Phase transitions occur throughout nature. The most familiar example is the one that occurs in water – the abrupt, discontinuous transition from a liquid to a gas or a solid, induced by a subtle environmental change. Practically magical, the ever-so-slight shift of temperature or pressure can induce an astonishing transition from one entity to another entity that bears little resemblance to the first.
So "convenient" a feature is seen throughout the domains of physics and chemistry, and one is therefore led to wonder whether it might also be common to biology. Indeed, many of the most fundamental cellular processes are arguably attributable to radical structural shifts triggered by subtle changes that cross a critical threshold. These processes include transport, motion, signaling, division, and other fundamental aspects of cellular function.
Largely on the basis of this radical concept, a symposium was organized in Poitiers, France, to bring together people who have additional evidence for the role of phase transitions in biology, and this book is a compendium of some of the more far-reaching of those presentations, as well as several others that seemed to the editors to be compelling.
The book should be suitable for anyone interested in the nature of biological function, particularly those who tire of lumbering along well trodden pathways of pursuit, and are eager to hear something fresh. The book is replete with fresh interpretations of familiar phenomena, and should serve as an excellent gateway to deeper understanding.
Fresh approaches to seemingly impenetrable questions in biology
Applies orthodox principles well known in physics and chemistry to biology
Chapters written by well-known scientists and engineers
Unique book, that brings to light a common principle that may apply broadly in biology
Preface. On the Reversible Abrupt Structural Changes in Nerve Fibers Underlying Their Excitation and Conduction Processes, Ichiji Tasaki. Nonequilibrium Phase Transition in Scattered Cell Communities Coupled by Auto/Paracrine-Like Signalling, H. Berry. InterfacialWater Compartments on Tendon/Collagen and in Cells, I.L. Cameron and G.D. Fullerton. The Role of Ion-Exchange on Trypsin Premature Activation in Zymogen Granules, Y.X. Ding, E. Chen, K. Yang and W.-C. Chin. Whole-Cell Phase Transition in Neurons and its Possible Role in Apoptotic Cell Death, F. Gallyas and J. Pal. Puzzles of Cell and Animal Physiology in View of the Chain-Ordering Transition in Lipid Membrane, D.P. Kharakoz. Ephemeral Gels: The Biological Example Applied to a New Type of Polymers, J. Picard, S. Giraudier and V. Larreta-Garde. The Cytoskeleton of the Living Cell as an Out-of-Equilibrium System, Guillaume Lenormand, Adriano M. Alencar, Xavier Trepat, En-hua Zhou, Ben Fabry, James P. Butler and Jeffrey J. Fredberg. Unexpected Linkage Between Unstirred Layers, Exclusion Zones, and Water, Gerald H. Pollack and James Clegg. 'Autothixotropy' of Water – An Unknown Physical Phenomenon, and its Possible Importance for the Cytoskeleton, Bohumil Vybiral and Pavel Voracek. Propagation of Volume Phase Transitions as a Possible Mechanism for Movement in Biological Systems, Yeghiazarian and R. Lux. Cell Plasma Membranes and Phase Transitions, Mark M. Banaszak Holl. Index. Contributors.