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For thousands of years, people have gazed in wonder at the world about them and asked the big questions: How did the universe come into existence? Where did the laws of nature come from? What will the ultimate fate of the universe be? How did life begin? Are we alone in the universe? Is there a meaning to it all?
Such questions have mostly been restricted to religion and philosophy. Now scientists are addressing them too, following spectacular advances in cosmology, subatomic particle physics, molecular biology, genetics and neuroscience. Physicists are busy seeking a way to meld the disparate laws of physics into an embracing mathematical scheme. Synthetic biologists are busy re-engineering life at the fundamental level. Biochemists are attempting to reconstruct the chemical pathway leading from non-life to life, while astrobiologists search for signs of life beyond Earth. Mathematicians are discovering mathematical patterns in complex networks that govern gene expression, information processing and cognition. On every front, science is transforming our world view and challenging age-old assumptions about the nature of the physical universe and our place within it.
Bring together scientists and philosophers from all disciplines to brainstorm some of the age-old questions of existence, using the latest ideas and discoveries at the forefront of scientific research. Develop new experimental and theoretical research projects that change the way scientists think about foundational questions.
Paul Davies is a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist and best-selling author. He holds the title of Regents’ Professor at Arizona State University, where he is Director of The Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. Davies was PI of the NCI-funded Center for Convergence of Physical Science and Cancer Biology. He developed the theory that cancer is a re-expression of an ancestral phenotype (atavism), and is currently relating the hallmarks of cancer to its deep evolutionary roots. He also works on the theory of the origin of life, with special emphasis on characterizing life in terms of its informational architecture. He continues his work in cosmology, with a project on black holes and gravitational entropy.
Davies holds several Visiting Professor positions, including in Bioengineering at Imperial College London and in Physics at the University of New South Wales in Australia. He is the author of 30 books, the most recent of which is The Eerie Silence: Are We Alone in the Universe? Before joining ASU in 2006 he held academic appointments in physics, mathematics and astronomy at the Universities of Cambridge, London and Newcastle upon Tyne before moving to The University of Adelaide in Australia in 1990. Later he helped create the NASA-affiliated Australian Centre for Astrobiology at Macquarie University in Sydney. He is a Member of the Order of Australia and has an asteroid named after him.