When physics and biology meet: The nanoscale case

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6 Scopus citations


As an illustration of the complexities involved in connecting physics and molecular biology at the nanoscale, in this paper I discuss two case studies from nanoscience. The first examines the use of a biological structure (DNA) to build nanostructures in a controlled way. The second discusses the attempt to build a single molecular wire, and then decide whether such a wire is indeed conducting. After presenting the central features of each case study, I examine the role played in them by microscopic imaging, the different styles of reasoning involved, and the various theoretical, methodological, and axiological differences. I conclude by arguing that, except for the probe microscopes that are used, there is very little in common between the two cases. At the nanoscale, physics and molecular biology seem to meet in a non-unified way.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-189
Number of pages10
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C :Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Nanoscale
  • Nanotechnology
  • Scientific imaging
  • Styles of reasoning\

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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