Event Details

Landscapes in Physics and Biology

  • 2020-03-06
  • Prof. Gautam Menon, Ashoka University & IMSc, Chennai

The use of the word "landscape" is common to very different fields, e.g. the free energy landscape in spin glasses, rugged landscapes in complex systems, the fitness or adaptive landscape in evolutionary theory, and the epigenetic landscape in stem cell biology. In at least some of these cases, the use of the word carries with it a visual idea that makes qualitative arguments easier to understand. In recent work, we have been trying to understand and model recent experiments on the mechanical properties of stem cell nuclei, which can exhibit an unusual property called auxeticity. (If you squeeze a balloon in one direction, it expands in the perpendicular direction - auxetics do the opposite.) Apart from providing an explanation for why mouse stem cells are auxetic, our work hints at the power of landscape paradigms, in this case the idea of an epigenetic landscape, to further conceptual understanding in both physics and biology.