Perspectives on the Origins of Life

Chance or Inevitable?

Professor Eric Smith (Santa Fe Institute, New Mexico, USA)

Room 110 (SAC Room), Cairnes Building / St. Anthony’s, NUI Galway 14:30 :: 27th October 2011

As the frontiers of knowledge have advanced, scientists have resolved one creation question after another. We now have a pretty good understanding of the origin of the Sun and the Earth, and cosmologists can take us to within a fraction of a second of the beginning of the universe itself. We know how life, once it began, was able to proliferate and diversify until it filled (and in many cases created) every niche on the planet. Yet one of the most obvious big questions — how did life arise from inorganic matter? — remains a great unknown.

In this talk Professor Eric Smith will present his fascinating research that synthesizes insights from primordial geochemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, thermodynamics, evolutionary biology and the dynamics of genomes, to provide a coherent account of the emergence of life. This multidisciplinary research has significant implications for a deeper understanding of critical global public policy challenges like climate change and infectious disease.

Professor Smith received the Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in 1987, and a Ph.D. in Physics from The University of Texas at Austin in 1993, with a dissertation on problems in string theory and high-temperature superconductivity. From 1993 to 2000 he worked in physical, nonlinear, and statistical acoustics at the Applied Research Labs: U. T. Austin, and at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. From 2000 he has worked at the Santa Fe Institute on problems of self-organization in thermal, chemical, and biological systems. A focus of his current work is the statistical mechanics of the transition from the geochemistry of the early Earth to the first levels of biological organization, with some emphasis on the emergence of the metabolic network.

All Welcome!

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