The J. Mark Sower Distinguished Lecture Series in the College of Science at Virginia Tech enables the college to host a series of lectures designed to be a forum to exchange new and innovative ideas in scientific fields. Generously supported by J. Mark Sowers, this series provides opportunities for the university community and general public to interact with and learn from eminent scholars and industry experts with experience in academia, science, business, government, and medicine, among other fields.
All talks are free and open to the public.
'What can theoretical physics tell us about the first 1 billion years of life on Earth?'
Center for Advanced Study Professorship and Swanlund Endowed Chair
Director, Biocomplexity Theme at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Life on Earth is wonderfully diverse, with a multitude of life forms, structures and evolutionary mechanisms. However, there are two aspects of life that are universal, shared by all known organisms. These are the genetic code, which governs how DNA is converted into the proteins making up your body, and the unexpected left-handedness of the amino acids in your body. One would expect that your amino acids were a mixture of left- and right-handed molecules, but none are right handed. Goldenfeld will describe how these universal aspects of biology can be understood as arising from evolution, but generalized to an era where genes, species and individuality had not yet emerged. He also will discuss to what extent one can find general principles of biology that can apply to all life in the universe, and what this would mean for the nascent field of astrobiology.