What isn’t Life?

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What isn't Life?

For centuries, mankind has struggled with the problem of defining life. Just what is it? What makes it different from things that are not living? It seems that the main difficulty is that we do not yet have a good enough model of what living is, in its widest sense to even start to provide definitions. To put this problem into perspective, there are two big scientific ideas that have helped humans to try to understand (at a crude level) how our Universe works; Einstein’s theory of general relativity and the concept of quantum mechanics. The former allows us to see how space and time are connected; connections between the big stuff of the Universe whilst the latter gives us a picture of how everything is built of immeasurably tiny things; things like quarks, neutrino’s and electrons. Both these models of the very big and the very small work quite well in themselves, but neither of them seem to nail what life is.

This talk, based on a forthcoming book of the same title, tries to get to grips with this conundrum. And will lay out a pathway, a scientifically reasoned pathway to an understanding of what life might possibly be.

Here is not the place to talk of detail, but the main take-home message? The startling conclusion I want to place before you is that everything is living; there is no such thing as non-life. The Universe is in effect one single, unified, interconnected livingness of which we and every other collection of stuff in the Universe is a full and connected part. Everything lives; everything changes. This conclusion itself changes the type of questions we may wish to ask about life, the Universe and our place within it.

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