Let's, for example, take a ribosome. It is an enzyme that is in turn just a molecule that must follow the laws of physics.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it can be looked upon as a molecular machine made up of several pieces. What exactly makes those pieces work together?

Why does the ribosome bind to a strand of RNA? Is it just the shape and electric charge or is it something more? Once the ribosome is bound to a piece of RNA, how does it move?

In a way, I'm looking for the "ghost in the machine". I'm interested in molecules in general, not just ribosomes. What is it that, on a level of single atoms, makes molecules "alive" - move, assemble a protein, etc. ?

Let me give a hypothetical example:

Imagine a strand of carbons. Also imagine that there exists a molecule that can move along this strand. How would it do it? What forces would move it along this strand? Is it electromagnetism? Would gravity be involved to a significant degree? What effect would shape have?


closed as off-topic by John Rennie, RedGrittyBrick, user36790, Carl Witthoft, CuriousOne Jan 5 '16 at 16:23

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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is biology not physics $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Jan 5 '16 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ Good luck writing the Hamiltonian for a protein. That's why this is a biology question: there's no value to trying to describe the quantum-level operation. $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Jan 5 '16 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ Of course there are ways to explain these things, but they don't start from first principles. That's what the biologists do and they use chemistry to tackle these questions. The only place where physics proper comes in is by giving them the tools to measure these interactions dynamically, e.g. with ultrafast x-ray crystallography. Like everybody else said: this question doesn't belong into physics. $\endgroup$ – CuriousOne Jan 5 '16 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ please, before closing this question consider what is discussed here in meta. Closing it, you close more and more the door to experts bio-physicist who could give great contributions, improving this site. $\endgroup$ – scrx2 Jan 5 '16 at 20:07
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    $\begingroup$ @CuriousOne With all the respect, limiting biophysics to x-ray crystallography is really too narrow. Molecular motors (like the ribosome) are subject of intense research led by many physicists, from developing techniques to measure their activity (e.g. optical tweezers) to theoretical modeling their mechano-chemical cycles. really, make this site a favor, leave this question open (see this meta). $\endgroup$ – scrx2 Jan 5 '16 at 20:19