U.Va. Physics Department to Host 46th Annual Llewellyn G. Hoxton Lecture
March 22nd , 2018 — The Department of Physics in the University of Virginia's College of Arts & Sciences will host its annual Llewellyn G. Hoxton Lecture on Thursday, March 22nd at 7 p.m. in room 402 (Auditorium) of the Chemistry Building, located on McCormick Road. The lecture is intended for a general audience.
William Bialek will present the lecture, entitled: The physics of life. Bialek is the John Archibald Wheeler/Battelle Professor in Physics, and a member of the multidisciplinary Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, at Princeton University. Also, he serves as Visiting Presidential Professor of Physics at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, where he is helping to launch an Initiative for the Theoretical Sciences. Professor Bialek’s research interests have ranged over a wide variety of theoretical problems at the interface of physics and biology, from the dynamics of individual biological molecules to learning and cognition. Best known for contributions to our understanding of coding and computation in the brain, Bialek and collaborators have shown that aspects of brain function can be described as essentially optimal strategies for adapting to the complex dynamics of the world, making the most of the available signals in the face of fundamental physical constraints and limitations. More recently he has followed these ideas of optimization into the early events of embryonic development and the processes by which all cells make decisions about when to read out the information stored in their genes. His hope is that these diverse biological phenomena may be understandable through some unifying theoretical principles, in the physics tradition.
Abstract for the Lecture: The physics of life
In the four hundred years since Galileo, the physics community has constructed a remarkably successful mathematical description of the world around us. From deep inside the atomic nucleus to the structure of the universe on the largest scales, from the flow air over the wing of an airplane to the flow of electrons in a computer chip, we can predict in detail what we see, and what will happen when we look in places we have never looked before. What are the limits to this predictive power? In particular, can we imagine a theoretical physicist’s approach to the complex and diverse phenomena of the living world? Is there something fundamentally unpredictable about life, or are we missing some deep theoretical principles that could bring the living world under the predictive umbrella of physics? Exploring this question gives us an opportunity to reflect on what we expect from our scientific theories, and on many beautiful phenomena. I hope to leave you with a deeper appreciation for the precision of life’s basic mechanisms, and with optimism about the prospects for better theories.
Parking is available in the Central Grounds Parking Garage on Emmett Street and, after 5 p.m., in the Scott Stadium lots.
For information about this free public event, contact Jessie Thacker at 434-924-3781 or