What would it be like to dive into the veins and arteries of the human body or weave through the layers of the brain? With the AlloSphere, one of the largest immersive scientific instruments in the world, these feats are now possible. Learn more in this Discovery.
Credit: Professor JoAnn-Kuchera Morin, Media Arts and Technology, UCSB, Professor Luca Peliti University of Naples Italy, Lance Putnam. Media Arts and Technology, UCSB
"E-8," one of the largest, most complex mathematical structures has been fully mapped. It's an object that exists in a 57-dimensional space, mapped by a matrix of 400,000 rows and columns. Hear more in this Discovery Files podcast.
Credit: NSF/Clear Channel Communications/Karson Productions
The mission of the Division of Physics (PHY) of the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences is to support fundamental research across the intellectual frontiers of physics, support research that has broader impacts on other fields of science and on the health, economic strength, and defense of society, enhance education at all levels, and share the excitement of science with the public through integration of education and research.
In nature, how do host species survive parasite attacks? A new mathematical model shows that when a host and its parasite each have multiple traits governing their interaction, the host has a unique evolutionary advantage that helps it survive.
A team of scientists, including several from the Smithsonian Institution, discovered that leaves of flowering plants in the world's first rainforests had more veins per unit area than leaves ever had before. They suggest that this increased the amount of water available to the leaves, making it possible for plants to capture more carbon and grow larger.
Plant biologists are facing pressure to breed plants that can respond to changing environments. One method of monitoring the response of plants to different environments is by studying their vein network patterns.
University of Arizona graduate student Benjamin Blonder may have solved the mystery of how leaf vein patterns correlate with use of sunlight, carbon and other nutrients.
May 14, 2012
Revealing Nature's Mathematical Formula for Survival
Mathematical physics team finds geometric patterns linking structure to function in leaves
The vascular system of a leaf provides its structure and delivers its nutrients. When you light up that vascular structure with some fluorescent dye and view it using time-lapse photography, details begin to emerge that reveal nature's mathematical formula for survival.
When it comes to optimizing form with function, it's tough to beat Mother Nature.
"If you begin looking at them in any degree of detail, you will see all of those beautiful arrangements of impinging angles and where the big veins meet the little veins and how well they are arranged," says Marcelo Magnasco, a mathematical physicist at Rockefeller University in New York.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Magnasco and his colleague, physicist Eleni Katifori, analyze the architecture of leaves by finding geometric patterns that link biological structure to function.
They study a specific vascular pattern of loops within loops that is found in many leaves going down to the microscopic level. It's a pattern that can neutralize the effect of a wound to the leaf, such as a hole in its main vein. Nutrients bypass the hole and the leaf remains completely intact.
"Something that looks pretty looks pretty for a really good reason. It has a well defined and elegant function. We can scan the leaves at extremely high resolution and reconstruct every single little piece of vein, who talks to who, who is connected to who and so forth," explains Magnasco.
Magnasco and Katifori digitally dissect the patterns, level by level. "It was very hard to get to a unique way of actually enumerating how they are ordered. Then we hit on the idea that what we should do is start at the very bottom, counting all of the individual little loops," recalls Magnasco.
"This research is a unique interdisciplinary partnership in which physics is used to address biological problems, and it is our belief that the mathematical and physical sciences will play a major role in biomedical research in this century," says Krastan Blagoev, director for the Physics of Living Systems program in NSF's Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate, which funded the research.
Magnasco says this research is a jumping off point for understanding other systems that branch and rejoin, including everything from river systems to neural networks and even malignant tumors. "When a tumor becomes malignant it vascularizes, so understanding all of this is extremely important for understanding how these things work," says Magnasco.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.