Is physics useful for students branching out into life sciences like botany, zoology, biotechnology, biophysics, medicine? Can you suggest some examples? Which books and topics should I read up to build a strong foundation for studying life sciences?

Yes, physics can be very useful for students branching out into life sciences such as botany, zoology, biotechnology, biophysics, and medicine. Understanding the basic principles of physics can help you understand how living systems work and how they interact with their environment. For example, the principles of thermodynamics are important for understanding how energy is used and produced in living systems, and the principles of mechanics can help you understand how cells and tissues function.

For students of life sciences, a non-calculus based course which provides a basic understanding of the main principles and concepts in physics is very useful.

To build a strong foundation in physics for studying life sciences, you might want to start by reading up on some of the following topics:

  • Basic Mechanics: units of measurement and unit conversions; concentrations and volumes; laws of motion; mechanical equilibrium and biomechanics; rotational dynamics; work & energy; human energy use and efficiency.
  • Electricity: electric charges, forces and fields; voltage – cell membranes and separation of DNA; capacitance; electric current and electrical power; electric circuits.
  • Magnetism: forces on electric charge and current in magnetic fields; transformers; applications of magnetism in life sciences; nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR).
  • Thermal Physics: temperature; thermal expansion; ideal gas law; heat, specific heat and calorimetry; human activity and heat; heat transfer, entropy.
  • Nuclear Physics: nuclear structure; radioactivity; radiocarbon dating; biology and ionising radiation; isotopes and DNA.
  • Fluid Mechanics: density, pressure and viscosity; Archimedes principle; flow rate and diffusion, equation of continuity; Bernoulli’s principle; laminar and turbulent flow; Poiseuille’s equation; surface tension.
  • Waves: SHM and resonance; types of wave motion; reflection, transmission, superposition and interference; EM Spectrum; optical instruments; fluorescence and biology.

There are many good books that can help you learn about these topics, depending on your level of knowledge and your preferred learning style. Some popular options for introductory physics books include “University Physics” by Francis Sears and Mark Zemansky, “Concepts of Physics” by H.C. Verma, and “Fundamentals of Physics” by Halliday, Resnick, and Walker.

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