Prof. William Bialek, Princeton University
Physics faculty, room Physics 323 at 11:00
5 May, 2011
Pushing the physical limits: Optimization principles in biological systems
Living systems obeys the laws of physics and chemistry, but this leaves a huge range of possibilities. In this lecture I'll survey a wide range of examples, from individual bacteria to the human brain, where biological systems have been selected by evolution to operate at the very edge of what physics allows, optimizing their performance at tasks that are critical for survival. If we can generalize from these examples, we can promote optimization to a theoretical principle from which we can derive, quantitatively, many details of the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms. There are now several cases, in very different subfields of biology, where this approach has been surprisingly successful. I will try to give some flavor for this wide range of theoretical work, and suggest that these diverse examples of optimization are pointing toward some more general principles.