Colloquium on June 19, 2006

L. Mahadevan
Harvard University

Mechanics and motility

Life is almost synonymous with autonomous movement; indeed, nature has engineering a number of exquisite mechanisms on the molecular, cellular and organismal level to accomplish motility on a range of length and time scales. This leads naturally to the question of the chemical and physical basis of motility, and its quantitative description. To uncover the basic features of this rich landscape, we focus on some paradigmatic examples of motility including the mechanochemistry of macromolecular spring-like assemblies and molecular motors at the cellular level, the water driven movements in fungi and plants, and the muscle driven movements of snakes and fishes. At each level, we show how simple (hierarchical) mathematical models allow us to go beyond mere stamp-collecting and look for a method in the madness.