As science and technology advance, fundamental issues central to the concept of life became harder to answer. Today, perspectives are changing on a wide range of issues including the origins of life, how life differentiates itself from its surroundings, what role self-awareness plays in maintaining life, and the discoveries regarding life that will emerge in the near future. UA's College of Science is proud to present six lectures that will probe these edges of life. Bringing together perspective that include biology, communications, medicine, technology, and philosophy, these six speakers will help us engage and understand the limits of life, and what might lie beyond.
The Edges of Life
Roy Parker, Regents’ Professor, Molecular and Cellular Biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute
How did life on earth originate? This is one of the great unsolved questions in biology. Cells contain a history of life’s origin in the form of “molecular fossils” that suggest how life might have emerged and evolved. How will our understanding of the origins of life on Earth help us assess the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe?
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Jonathan Lunine, Professor, Planetary Sciences and Physics
Although all life on the Earth is biochemically the same, it can assume exotic forms and occupy extreme ecological niches. What does this knowledge teach us about the potential of life on exotic worlds? To detect and recognize life beyond Earth will require an understanding of the full range of possibilities of what might truly be called life.
Michael Rosenzweig, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
Today, Earth’s treasury of species, its biodiversity, faces an existential challenge and its outcome depends on man. Science now knows we’ve taken away enough land from nature to precipitate a mass extinction like the one that exterminated the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Using reconciliation ecology, we can prevent this — and preserve life.
Anna Dornhaus, Assistant Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Our human mind distinguishes us from other animal life—or does it? Recent research has revealed culture and social learning, tool use, complex communication, self-recognition, and planning for the future are not unique to the human experience. With these new findings, science is finally getting closer to understanding exactly what makes us human.
Michael Gill, Associate Professor, Philosophy
Nothing looms with more certainty than the final edge of one’s own life. But in fact, the edge between life and death is anything but clear. This lecture will address the attempts that have been made to define the line between life and death and will explore the biological, legal, ethical, and spiritual debates that have raged around that line.
Ray Kurzweil, via Teleportec Teleporter Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Kurzweil Technologies
Humanity is on the edge of a vast transformation, when what it means to be human will be both enriched and challenged. Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil will introduce this radically optimistic singularity, an era when we break our genetic shackles to create a nonbiological intelligence trillions of times more powerful than today. In this new world, humans will transcend biological limitations to achieve entirely new levels of progress and longevity.
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