General physical laws ruling biology

Anyou Wang

“Is there any physical law obeyed in biology? Something like the Newton’s motion laws? ” I asked this seemly naïve question in public a couple of years ago. Actually, this question arose when I read the fractal and chaos theory during my graduate study. Originally, I thought that chaos theory might help to solve this problem, but the simple chaos map sounds complex (e.g. Figure 1) and this topic is too complex. In order to get more talent and gifted scientists involved, I would post here an array of what I thought and what I got so far. Hopefully, this platform can accelerate the new discoveries in this area.

Figure 1. The chaos profiling of gene expressions derived from microarray.

First of all, I like to address why I believe there are general physical laws in biology. Almost anything in the universal obeys a certain physical laws, known or unknown to date. Of course, without exception, biology should obey some simple laws. This point might be too old to be posted here as it must be posted somewhere like historical books, but some people would still yell that biology is too dynamically complex to obey some physical laws. This argument sounds reasonable, but I should remind that object motions were also very complex around 200 years ago before Newton’s law discovery, even today, they are still very complicate because there are various types of objects and their motions seem chaos. However, Newton’s motion laws describe all motion obey the physical laws and the second law about the force and mass and acceleration (F=mdv/dt) should be familiar to most quantitative biologists since the ordinary differential equations are the most frequently used theory for describing the dynamic processes in the quantitative biology.

After googled the topic, I found the topic arose by a philosopher of biology and I did not have the materials in my hand, but I did not think that the real biological laws can be revealed by general philosophy. They should be solved by interdisciplinary, especially combinations of biology and mathematics.

Two excellent papers (Science 324, 81, and 85) described automating science might be interesting, but they might only be helpful in dealing with the detail components of biology and specific processes in biology and the real physical laws in biology might not be generated by simple math equation derivations. We need view biology as a whole object instead of components of an object.

For the Newton’s law, we learned that the most fundamental elements in objects are essential variables for describing the laws for the objects, but such fundamental elements in biology we can use them as parameters to describe the physical laws in biology remain unknown.

We have increased daily our biological knowledge in genetics and epigenetics from biochemistry and genomics studies. Recent developments in system biology and genome-wide profiling in genetics and epigenetics may accelerate our understanding biology in higher level, but we still have no ideas about the most fundamental elements controlling the biology. The physical laws for biology are not available until we know very well these most fundamental parameters in the whole biology.

…To be continued


Leave a Comment