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Shape, Size and Geometry

universe of cell shapes

What does that mean? Well, a biomechanist can have fun by creating a hypothetical universe of all conceivable cells. This universe is illustrated here for shape, size and geometry. So, I've plotted shape, size and geometry to create a world of conceivable cell shapes, sizes and geometries. By the way, geometry and shape are not the same thing. Please bear that in mind when you're teaching basic physics or mathematics to your students.

Cylindrical prisms, like these things here, all belong to the same class of geometric objects. You take a circle and you translate it along an axis and you get a circular cylinder. But, all cylinders do not have the same shape. Some are short and broad. Others are very tall and skinny. So shape and geometry are not the same thing. That's why you need three axes for this hypothetical universe of cells.

Now, what happens if you increase size in this universe?

The question here is, if you start out with a small spherical cell, how must cell shape and geometry change to accommodate two important biological functions? The first of these functions is the interception of sunlight. It's extraordinarily important for a photosynthetic organism. The other is the maximization of surface area with respect to volume. Why is that important? It's important because organisms like these unicellular plants, use their surface area to absorb materials from their external environment and to excrete waste materials into their environment.


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