Homogeneity and heterogeneity are concepts often used in the sciences and statistics relating to the uniformity in a substance or organism. A material or image that is homogeneous is uniform in composition or character (i.e. color, shape, size, weight, height, distribution, texture, language, income, disease, temperature, radioactivity, architectural design, etc.); one that is heterogeneous is distinctly nonuniform in one of these qualities.
The concept is the same to every level of complexity, from atoms to populations of animals or people, and galaxies. Hence, an element may be homogeneous on a larger scale, compared to being heterogeneous on a smaller scale. This is known as an effective medium approach, or effective medium approximations.
Various disciplines understand heterogeneity, or being heterogeneous, in different ways. For example:
In chemistryphase, while heterogeneous reactions have reactants in two or more phases. Reactions that take place on the surface of a catalyst of a different phase are also heterogeneous. A reaction between two gases or two miscible liquids is homogeneous. A reaction between a gas and a liquid, a gas and a solid or a liquid and a solid is heterogeneous.
Earth is a heterogeneous substance in many aspects. e.g. rocks (geology) are inherently heterogeneous, usually occurring at the micro-scale and mini-scale.
In medicine and genetics, a genetic or allelic heterogeneous condition is one where the same disease or condition can be caused, or contributed to, by several factors, or in genetic terms, by varying or different genes or alleles.
In cancer research, cancer cell heterogeneity is thought to be one of the underlying reasons that make treatment of cancer difficult.
In physics, "heterogeneous" is understood to mean "having physical properties that vary within the medium".
^Bhatia, Sangeeta; John V Frangioni; Robert M Hoffman; A John Iafrate; Kornelia Polyak (10 July 2012). "The challenges posed by cancer heterogeneity". Nature Biotechnology. 30: 604–610. doi:10.1038/nbt.2294.
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