Caltech Logo

Physics Colloquium

Thursday, December 5, 2019
4:00pm to 5:00pm
Add to Cal
East Bridge 201 (Richard P. Feynman Lecture Hall)
Life is What?
Sara Walker, Arizona State University,

In 1943 Erwin Schrodinger famously delivered a set of lectures at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies aiming to tackle the question "What is Life?" from the first-principles approach of a theoretical physicist. Over 70 years later, we've still made little headway in coming up with a general theory for what life is. While many definitions for life do exist, these are primarily descriptive, not predictive, and they have so far proved insufficient to explain the origins of life from non-living matter, or to provide rigorous constraints on what properties are universal to all life, even that on other worlds. Yet, as NASA and other space agencies are setting sights on life detection as a goal of upcoming robotic missions and space observatories, more rigorous understanding of the universal properties of living matter are becoming increasingly vital to uncover. In this talk, I discuss quantitative approaches aimed at developing a new theory for understanding life based on the idea that life is fundamentally about information and how it interacts with the physical world, which has applications for understanding both the origin of life and how we should search for it on other worlds.