Beaches, bathsalts and the best of the best in Biophysics

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A little over two centuries ago, pioneering physicist Thomas Young—perhaps the first biophysicist— published his seminal work on the wave theory of light, overturning Newton’s ideas in the process.  A century before Newton was born, a different breed of pioneer was setting foot on the beaches of south-western USA, as Juan Cabrillo claimed what is now San Diego in California, for Spain.

Today, pioneering scientists at the interface of physics and biology meet at this city for the 56th Annual Biophysical Society conference.Here, Thomas Young was celebrated as the inspiration for National Lecture recipient Steve Block, of Stanford University.  Block gave an entertaining potted history of single molecule biophysics, from its early years using laser technology, through to the development of optical traps for manipulating individual molecules (demonstrated successfully by this game of micro-scale Tetris). Finally, he discussed the future of the field that will look to molecular probes within
molecules themselves.

BMC Biophysics—celebrating its first birthday following its re-launch into the BMC-series—is delighted to be part of this exciting future. The journal hosted a strong presence among its Editorial Board, including Section Editor Sanford Leuba’s subgroup meeting on Nanoscale Biophysics. Some of the biggest names in the field showcased their latest developments, including fellow Section Editor Alby Diaspro,single molecule biophysics pioneer Carlos Bustamante, and recent Liebniz prize winner Joerg Wrachtrup (sadly absent, collecting the prize from German Chancellor Angela Merkel). 

It was clear that the conference was acelebration of the current strength and diversity of biophysical research worldwide. Notable presentations broached subjects as diverse as synchronised swimming in sperm, the immortal planarian worm as a model organism for biophysical research, and novel developments in DNA-sensing utilising graphene nanoribbons.

Less esoteric offerings focused firmly on the application of biophysics to the study of human disease. Bob Austin from Princeton University elegantly demonstrated that metastatic cancer cells behave like a peloton of cyclists as they move along a cellular invasion front, and Louis De Felice gave a salutary warning on the dangers of new synthetic designer drugs like “bathsalts”, from a biophysical perspective.

BMC Biophysics is a broad scope journal, incorporating allaspects of this diverse and fascinating field. We are especially keen to encourage researchers to submit their novel methods for consideration, and strongly encourage all areas of research that demonstrate a useful advance in the field. Having recently been accepted for Impact Factor tracking by Thomson Reuters, we would  encourage all biophysical researchers to get involved with the journal – we would be delighted to be a home for your latest research.

Almost 500 years since Cabrillo landed in San Diego, the city is still known for its naval presence, and “Top Gun” airbase at nearby Miramar. Thomas Young’s seminal paper on optics demonstrates that even the best of the best do not always have it easy. This groundbreaking work was once subject to what Steve Block calls “The best worst peer-review of all time” by Henry Brougham in the Edinburgh Review, who stated: “as an hypothesis (it) is a work of fancy, useless in science, and fit only for the amusement of a vacant hour”.

In BMC Biophysics, we are confident that—having assembled such a distinguished and expert Editorial Board—we can certainly offer you the best advice possible from the leading edge of biophysics.

Simon Harold

Executive Editor

BMC Biophysics