The field of soft matter physics has expanded rapidly over the past several decades, as physicists realize that a broad set of materials and systems are amenable to a physical understanding based on the interplay of entropy, elasticity, and geometry. The fields of biological physics and the physics of living systems have similarly emerged as bona fide independent areas of physics in part because tools from molecular and cell biology and optical physics allow scientists to make new quantitative measurements to test physical principles in living systems. This Essay will highlight two exciting future challenges I see at the intersection of these two fields: characterizing emergent behavior and harnessing actuation in highly deformable active objects. I will attempt to show how this topic is a natural extension of older and more recent discoveries and why I think it is likely to unfurl into a wide range of projects that can transform both fields. Progress in this area will enable new platforms for creating adaptive smart materials that can execute large-scale changes in shape in response to stimuli and improve our understanding of biological function, potentially allowing us to identify new targets for fighting disease.Part of a series of Essays which concisely present author visions for the future of their field.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)