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One of the many aspects of membrane biophysics dealt with in this Faraday Discussion regards the material moduli that describe energies at a supramolecular level. This introductory lecture first critically reviews differences in reported numerical values of the bending modulus KC, which is a central property for the biologically important flexibility of membranes. It is speculated that there may be a reason that the shape analysis method tends to give larger values of KC than the micromechanical manipulation method or the more recent X-ray method that agree very well with each other. Another theme of membrane biophysics is the use of simulations to provide exquisite detail of structures and processes. This lecture critically reviews the application of atomic level simulations to the quantitative structure of simple single component lipid bilayers and diagnostics are introduced to evaluate simulations. Another theme of this Faraday Discussion was lateral heterogeneity in biomembranes with many different lipids. Coarse grained simulations and analytical theories promise to synergistically enhance experimental studies when their interaction parameters are tuned to agree with experimental data, such as the slopes of experimental tie lines in ternary phase diagrams. Finally, attention is called to contributions that add relevant biological molecules to bilayers and to contributions that study the exciting shape changes and different non-bilayer structures with different lipids.
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