Randy Wayne

Randy Wayne

Associate Professor

203 Plant Sciences Building
(607) 255-8904

I am a scientist and a teacher: an amateur, in that I do what I love and a dilettante in that I do what I find delight in. I am less of a professional in that a professional may be assessed more by his/her short term career accomplishments than by the long term results that come from his/her calling. My research has focused on questioning the assumptions underlying the current quantum electrodynamic theories and orthodox interpretation of the photon. As a teacher, I have tried to pass on a deep and broad knowledge of biology, a love for biology and an ability to critically and ethically think about biological research and its consequences.

Research Focus

Stanislaw Ulam said, “Ask not what physics can do for biology, ask what biology can do for physics.” Biophysics is populated by people who have moved from physics into biology. However, historically, biologists and physicians, including Thomas Young, Hermann von Helmholtz, Robert Brown, Robert Meyer and Adolf Fick have had a profound influence on physics and there is still room for a trained cell biologist to make an impact. This is because cells live in the world of neglected dimensions between the world of macroscopic physics and the world of microscopic physics. Studying physico-chemical processes in such a world has its advantages and its disadvantages. One disadvantage of working in this world of neglected dimensions is that it is not easy to assume that a given subset of physical laws can be neglected in order to model biological processes and solve the equations easily. On the other hand, one advantage of working in the world of neglected dimensions is that a cell biologist has the opportunity to look for fundamental laws that are applicable to microscopic systems as well as macroscopic systems and thus help to unify macrophysics and microphysics. Such laws could provide a parsimonious toolbox for modeling and solving a wide range of physico-chemical problems. Although cells and the particles within them do not travel anywhere near the speed of light, as a cell biologist, I have gained a perspective to suggest why charged particles do not travel faster than the speed of light. I have been working on a thought-provoking and testable hypothesis as an alternative to the theory of special relativity.

Teaching Focus

Light and Life. By most accounts, whether theological or scientific, light is fundamental for the origin and continuation of life. Throughout the living world, there are vital processes, such as photosynthesis in plants and vision in animals that are associated with light. Plants and animals make use of the information provided by the daily and seasonal changes in illumination to regulate their daily and yearly rhythms necessary for normal growth and development. However, too much of a good thing is not necessarily a good thing as too much visible light can result in the inhibitions of photosynthesis and flowering in plants and the nocturnal production of sleep-inducing melatonin in humans. Similarly, too much ultraviolet light, which reaches the earth due to a thinning of the ozone layer in the atmosphere, can cause photo damage to DNA that can result in both genetic mutations and the activation of DNA repair mechanisms. Likewise, too much infrared light, which cannot escape the earth as a result of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, can result in the migration of plants out of their current growth zones and toward the colder regions. The extraordinary relationship between “light and life” also provides an important unifying framework for understanding the luminescence of living organisms, the striking and flamboyant coloration of plants and animals as well as the inconspicuous and muted nature of their camouflage in terms of physics, chemistry and biology. In this course we will enhance our understanding of the natural world by studying the relationships between light and life.

Biological Principles. Biology is often defined as the study of life without any mention of the meaning and value of life. I teach biology in the context of know it helps the students to know themselves and live a meaningful and valuable life. In this class, the students learn how their body works and the biological basis for their individuality; the creative process of discovery and how we know what we know; and the relationship between biology and society so that they can make wise and informed decisions about biological issues.

Light and Video Microscopy. When one looks at a specimen with a light microscope, how does one know what is real and what is an illusion created by the apparatus itself? My course, as well as the companion book published by Elsevier/Academic Press, takes the student/reader step-by-step through philosophy, psychology, and particularly geometrical and physical optics so that the student/reader can interpret images formed by light microscopes. The student/reader can then use this knowledge to set up light microscopes that allow one to visualize transparent specimens and, in the process, quantitatively determine various physico-chemical properties of the specimen. One comes away from this course/book empowered to use past, present, and future microscopical techniques to visualize the microscopic world and find the real nature of life in the image.

Plant Cell Biology. The cell is the basic unit of life because it is the lowest level of organization that is capable of taking up nutrients and synthesizing them into macromolecules at ambient temperatures and pressure, generating electricity, moving as a result of self-generated forces, transforming one form of energy into another, responding appropriately to the environment and reproducing with near-perfect fidelity. I teach my students how the various organelles in the cell make these processes, which are necessary for and operationally define life, possible. The students learn the purpose of each organelle, the processes in which they participate that make life possible and the particulars of that organelle that may illuminate other aspects of biology, physics, chemistry and/or the history and philosophy of science The companion book is Plant Cell Biology: From Astronomy to Zoology

Selected Publications

Journal Publications

  • Wayne, R. O. (2014). Deriving the Snel-Descartes Law for a single photon. Turkish Journal of Physics. 38:26-38.
  • Wayne, R. O. (2014). Evidence that photons have extension in space. Turkish Journal of Physics. 38:17-25.
  • Witztum, A., & Wayne, R. O. (2014). Fibre cables in the lacunae of Typha leaves contribute to a tensegrity structure. Annals of Botany. 113:789-797.
  • Wayne, R. O. (2013). "Microscope" A lost poem by Louis Ginsberg. The Microscope. 61:85-87.
  • Maers, A., Furnas, R., Rutzke, M., & Wayne, R. O. (2013). The Fizeau Experiment: Experimental Investigations of the Relativistic Doppler Effect. African Review of Physics. 8:297-312.
  • Wayne, R. O. (2013). The Relationship Between the Optomechanical Doppler Force and the Magnetic Vector Potential. African Review of Physics. 8:283-296.
  • Wayne, R. O. (2012). A Fundamental, Relativistic, and Irreversible Law of Motion: A Unification of Newton's Second Law of Motion and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. African Review of Physics. 7:115-134.
  • Wayne, R. O. (2012). Rethinking the Concept of Space-Time in the General Theory of Relativity: The Deflection of Starlight and the Gravitational Red Shift. African Review of Physics. 7:183-201.
  • Maers, A. F., & Wayne, R. O. (2011). Rethinking the Foundations of the Theory of Special Relativity: Stellar Aberration and the Fizeau experiment. African Physical Review. 5:1523-1530.
  • Witztum, A., & Wayne, R. O. (2011). Button Botany: Plasmodesmata in Vegetable Ivory. Protoplasma. 249:721-724.
  • Staves, M. P., & Wayne, R. O. (2010). A. Carl Leopold--A Very Nice Man. American Society of Plant Biologists Newsletter. 37:25-26.
  • Wayne, R. O. (2010). Charged Particles are Prevented from Going Faster than the Speed of Light by Light Itself: A Biophysical Cell Biologist’s Contribution to Physics. Acta Physica Polonica B. 41:1001-1027.
  • Wayne, R. O. (2010). Giving the Amoebae Equal Time. Review of The Social Amoebae: The Biology of Cellular Slime Molds by John T. Bonner. BioScience. 60:156-157.
  • Wayne, R. O. (2010). The Relativity of Simultaneity: An Analysis Based on the Properties of Electromagnetic Waves. African Physical Review. 4:43-55.
  • Wayne, R. O. (2010). Remembering Carl Leopold. The Leopold Outlook. 30-31.