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Physics Colloquium - Friday, Sept. 12th, 2008, 4:00 P.M.

E300 Math/Science Center; Refreshments at 3:30 P.M. in Room E200

Wilson Poon - SUPA and School of Physics, University of Edinburgh

Bacteria as colloids

Bacteria represent the 'quanta' of life - they are the smallest freely living units of living matter. They also inhabit the colloidal domain - the typical dimensions being 0.2-2 microns. In this talk, I will give a colloid physicist's view of bacterial life. Such a perspective pays dividends in two directions. First, it suggests novel physics problems, e.g. what is the steady-state distribution (if there is one) of a suepension of living, swimming bacteria in a gravitational field? Secondly, it can give insights into certain biological processes, e.g. what is the role of polymer in bacterial motility and aggregation? Sometimes, these two lines of enquiry coincide - how is polymer driven bacterial aggregation different from polymer driven colloid aggregation because of the 'active' nature of the cells compared to non-living particles? A health warning is in order - I will be raising far more questions than I will answer!