Further Reading

Atomic and Molecular forces


While chemical bonds and chemical reactions are critical for the functioning of an organism, the longer range interaction forces between atoms and molecules also play a huge role in biology. For example, it is well known in biology that the shape of a molecule determines how it functions. A genetic change that changes a molecule's shape can change its function dramatically.  A significant part of this is the electrical attraction between molecules. Let's consider a few questions about the interaction of molecules.

  • If atoms are electrically neutral (with an equal number of protons and electrons in each atom), what makes them stick together to form molecules and larger structures?
  •  Conversely, if something makes atoms attract each other, what makes them stay some distance apart, instead of moving all the way together?  Why don't molecules (and everything made of molecules) implode?
  • How can we model this interaction quantitatively?
  • And what does all of this have to do with energy?

For the answers, read the follow-on pages.

Ben Dreyfus and Joe Redish 11/15/11


Article 464
Last Modified: February 25, 2019