Paul Davies is Regents’ Professor of Physics, Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science and Co-Director of the Cosmology Initiative at Arizona State University. His research has been mainly in the area of theoretical astrophysics and astrobiology, with emphasis on the big bang, black holes, the origin of life and SETI. He is also active in cancer research. He has many scientific and literary awards, and the asteroid (6870) Pauldavies was named in recognition of his work on cosmic impacts. Davies has written hundreds of research papers and 31 books, the latest being The Demon in the Machine, which addresses the fundamental questions: ‘What is life?’ and ‘How did life begin?’
Alien life: what do we look for?
Friday 8th February 2019: Session 1
Whether or not we are alone in the universe is one of the oldest and deepest questions of existence. Astrobiology addresses the question by seeking traces of life beyond Earth, so far without success. Part of the problem is that we lack a general definition of life. In spite of dazzling advances in biology, there is no agreement on what life is or how it began. Most astrobiologists focus on the chemical basis of life – the hardware. Recently a new approach deals instead with the software of life – the shifting patterns of organized information. Any theory of life’s origin has to account for the emergence of coded digital information and how it couples to chemical networks. To quantify the chances of non-living matter turning into living matter, we need to understand this informational basis.