The 2013 Bragg Lecture will take place on Wed 30 October, and will be given by Prof Paul Chaikin (New York University) on Some small steps towards artificial life.
Abstract: The properties we often associate with living things are motility,
metabolism, self-replication and evolution. According to the Nobel
Laureate Richard Feynman: “What I can’t create, I don’t understand”. We
thought we’d give it a shot - understanding life - and in the process
we’ve made two different systems, one that exhibits both autonomous
motility and metabolism and another which is the first artificial system
that can replicate arbitrarily designed motifs. The first system,
artificial swimmers, provides insight into many natural phenomena such
as a flocking of birds and schooling of fish. The second system uses
diurnal cycles of temperature and light and at present is doubling each
cycle, growing exponentially. It provides a new way of producing many,
many copies of nanoscale devices and may give insights into the origin
of conventional life on earth. We even have initiated an elementary
form of evolution.