Resource Letter BP-1: Biological Physics

Brad Roth
3 min readDec 3, 2021


So Simple a Beginning: How Four Physical Principles Shape Our Living World.

The December, 2021 issue of the American Journal of Physics contains Resource Letter BP-1: Biological Physics (Volume 89, Pages 1071–1078), by Raghuveer Parthasarathy. A Resource Letter is a guide to the literature, websites, and other teaching aids about a particular topic. Parthasarathy’s abstract states

This Resource Letter provides an overview of the literature in biological physics, a vast, active, and expanding field that links the phenomena of the living world to the tools and perspectives of physics. While no survey of this area could be complete, this list and commentary are intended to help provide an entry point for upper-level undergraduates, graduate students, researchers new to biophysics, or workers in subfields of biophysics who wish to expand their horizons. Topics covered include subcellular structure and function, cell-scale mechanics and organization, collective behaviors and embryogenesis, genetic networks, and ecological dynamics.

I particularly like the opening paragraph of his resource letter, which reflects what Russ Hobbie and I have tried to convey in Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology.

Life is full of variety, vigor, and clever solutions to daunting challenges. Physics provides deep, elegant insights into how nature works and tools with which to gain ever-greater insights. In biological physics, we find the merger of physics and biology. The resulting combination of diversity and depth, together with a wealth of practical applications, contributes to the vitality and size of the field.

The Resource Letter cites many books that I have discussed in my blog: Physical Biology of the Cell, Biophysics: Searching for Principles, From Photon to Neuron, Molecular Biology of the Cell, Cell Biology by the Numbers, Physical Models of Living Systems, , The Machinery of Life, The Eighth Day of Creation, Random Walks in Biology, Life in Moving Fluids, and On Being the Right Size. It also includes many items I have not written about, such as: Biological Physics/Physical Biology Virtual Seminars, BioRxiv, and The Way of the Cell: Molecules, Organisms, and the Order of Life. I’ve always wondered what exactly “systems biology” is, so I should read A First Course in Systems Biology. The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life sounds fascinating.

I am looking forward to Parthasarathy’s new bookSo Simple a Beginning: How Four Physical Principles Shape Our Living World, due out next year (I see there is even an audiobook version, so I can listen to it on my phone while dog walking!). For some reason, he didn’t cite his blog in the Resource Letter, so I will cite it here: the Eighteenth Elephant. You can find out what the name of his blog means by reading the charming story told here. Another item lacking in the Resource Letter are Parthasarathy’s wonderful watercolor paintings, which grace each post in his blog. You can see a few of them in the video above.

What is the best thing about Resource Letter BP-1: Biological Physics? It cites both Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology and this blog. As far as I know, this is the only citation my blog has ever received. Thanks Raghu!

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Brad Roth

Professor of Physics at Oakland University and coauthor of the textbook Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology.