Waiting for Einstein

The dawn of a unified theory of biology may finally be upon us.

Steven Wiley
Sep 30, 2008

I just finished reading a biography of Albert Einstein by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, 2008) and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have long been fascinated by how this one man was able to revolutionize physics in the early 20th century.

Isaacson argues that Einstein achieved his breakthroughs by creating a conceptual framework that could link disparate areas of physics. This framework was built by combining experiments, theory and philosophy. Einstein's deep intuition regarding experimental systems (from his days as a patent clerk), skill in mathematics, and his philosophical perspective of causality provided the means to create theories in quantum mechanics and relativity that could make testable predictions spanning the smallest to the largest processes in the universe.

The 21st century has been called the era of biology, just as the 20th century was...

References

1. B. Grant, "The powers that might be," The Scientist, 21(3):42, March 2007. 2. H. Yu et al., "The importance of bottlenecks in protein networks: Correlation with gene essentiality and expression dynamics," PLoS Comput Biol, 3(4):e59, 2007.