Questions to ask a biologist:
"What is the growth rate of hair in turns per second?"
"How big is the Human Genome in meters?"
For some odd reason, biology is not particularly good at quantities. Astrophysicists know about the distances between stars, and chemists know enthalpies of reactions but biologists? Some have accused this science of being nothing more than 'butterfly collection' - that is, naming and classifying objects.
In case you were wondering, the first question has the answer '10' (for a growth rate of 15cm a year), while the second is 1.2 meters.
There seems to be some confusion from this node - both on my part and, naturally, on the part of pimephalis
. I didn't
say biologists can't do maths
I said (or meant to say:
Scale is an important, and difficult to grasp, feature of biology.
I mean, the astrophysicist has to deal with very large things (say 1010m) and the nuclear physicist with very small things (say 10-10m) but only the biologist has to consider structures with such a range (Ångstroms to meters).
So the problem is, biology has traditionally been a descriptive science and is only this century becoming a more quantitative one. What surprises me is the incomplete grasp of the scale of biological structures (how much bigger is a neuron than a water molecule? how many mitochondria could fit into a cheek cell?).