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Sara Walker

Breathing Life into the Laws of Physics

Sara Walker

Fundamental physics has been a great success story. Yet the central phenomenon of our existence - life itself - has been left out. Join theoretical physicist and astrobiologist, Sara Walker, as she shares insights from the cutting-edge of theory and exper

About the Course

Fundamental physics has been a great success story. Yet the central phenomenon of our existence - life itself - has been left out. Physics and biology are traditionally treated as entirely separate disciplines, but, increasingly, developments in thinking about information and a radical new conversation about what a scientific law might even look like, suggest they have more to learn from each other than we think. And this might just help us shed light on the deepest problems of existence and usher in a new paradigm of scientific thought.

So what is life, really? What are laws of nature and can they evolve, as they do in biology? Why has it been so difficult to investigate the origin of life on earth and how can we make progress? What is information and how can information theory help us radically shift our framings of the problems? And what should we be doing to find life on other planets?

Theoretical physicist and astrobiology Sara Walker shows us how to breathe life into the laws of physics and, in doing so, provide a radical new framework to finally understand what life itself is.

By the end of the course, you will have learned:

  • How investigations in physics and biology differ and what they can learn from each other
  • Everything we know (so far) about information
  • Why unifying information and matter might be the next big leap in physics
  • What the relationship between life and information is
  • What experiments we actually need to be running to explore the emergence of life on earth
  • How we might actually be able to discover life on other planets


IAI Academy courses are designed to be challenging but accessible to the interested student. No specialist knowledge is required.

About the Instructor

  • Sara Walker

    Sara Walker is a famed science communicator, theoretical physicist and astrobiologist with research interests in the origins of life, astrobiology, physics of life, emergence, complex and dynamical systems, and artificial life. Walker is currently the Deputy Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University, Associate Director of the ASU-SFI Center for Biosocial Complex Systems and an associate professor at Arizona State University (ASU). She is a co-founder of the astrobiology social network, and on the board of directors for Blue Marble Space a nonprofit education and science organisation. 

Course Syllabus

  • Part One: The Universal Laws of Life
    Are we overdue an understanding of life that takes seriously the universal laws that underpin it? Walker explores the exciting paradigm shift in our thinking we may need to finally understand our living existence.
  • Part Two: The Origin of Life in the Universe
    Many scientists focus their life-research on trying to recreate the conditions of how life emerged on Earth. But what if we dream bigger and start theorizing a less parochial form of life? Walker paves the way for thinking about how all kinds of life coul