Do you know what's good for you: the next microscope
"Mathematics is biology's next microscope, only better." That's what the scientist Joel E Cohen once said of the power of mathematics to revolutionise biology and the biomedical sciences. And he was right. Maths enables scientists to understand complex organisms and diseases, it's crucial in developing sophisticated medical technology and materials, and we can even use it to model our psyche and intelligence. That's quite beside its ability to cope with the vast complexity that comes with biological information such as genomes and to quantify the uncertainties involved. In this sense maths has become a genuine research instrument for biomedical sciences. The insight it gives them are on a par with the revolutionising power of the microscope.
This is the final package in our series on the role of maths and stats in the biomedical sciences, produced with generous support from the Wellcome Trust. We bring together articles and podcasts exploring some of the uses of maths as a research tool — from modelling cancer to understanding visual hallucinations.
Our articles cover four areas: the body and the brain, looking at how maths is used to understand physical processes within our bodies and our brains, the mind, exploring the use of maths to understand human psychology, and technology, looking at the role of maths in developing medical instruments and materials. There's also a classroom activity exploring how mathematics can help explain how all the amazing complexity we see in living organisms arises.