Volume 2 Issue 4, April 2006

Volume 2 Issue 4

The biological cell is supported by a meshwork of polymers, notably the protein actin. But this cytoskeleton is no rigid scaffold – the dynamic response of the mesh is akin to a muscle, flexing and stretching, and enabling the cell to move. The physics of the polymer mesh is fascinating in itself, but biophysicists want to push further, piecing the details together to create basic components – or functional modules that mimic the behaviour of the cytoskeleton. In this issue, Andreas Bausch and Klaus Kroy review the progress made, using physics theory, modelling and experiment, to establish a bottom-up approach to understanding the complexity of biological cells.

Article by Bausch et al




Research Highlights

News and Views

  • News & Views |

    The zero-point entropy of glass-like states can be an abstruse concept, but the study of a chemical modification of 'spin ice' promises to bring it out into the open.

    • Steven T. Bramwell
  • News & Views |

    'Large ellipticals' are the lords of the galaxies in terms of mass, size and evolutionary development. Different theories for their formation have been proposed, but the debate might now be resolved by new models and observations.

    • Curtis Struck
  • News & Views |

    The tendency of a stationary droplet, sitting on the surface of a large body of liquid, to eject a smaller droplet when it eventually coalesces with the body has long been known but its details poorly understood. A combination of high-speed imaging and numerical simulations casts new light on this intriguing phenomenon and its widespread implications.

    • S. T. Thoroddsen
  • News & Views |

    For more than a hundred years, optical physicists have been fascinated by the effects that can arise when light interacts anomalously with diffraction gratings. A new experimental study shows how nanofabrication and diagnostic techniques can pull apart the physics behind the so-called anomalies.

    • Ross C. McPhedran
  • News & Views |

    Nanoscale engineering can now take advantage of a new ratchet device: it acts as a diode for superconducting vortices, but its directionality can be controlled and repeatedly reversed to become an effective 'two-way street'.

    • Franco Nori
  • News & Views |

    The broken symmetry at an interface between two different oxides is a source of unexpected behaviour. For instance, the modified orbital physics at the interface can lead to induced magnetism in a superconductor.

    • Jacobo Santamaría

Progress Article