You’re Invited: Natural Cosmology Meeting March 6

The next meeting of the Natural Cosmology Group will take place on Wednesday, March 6 at 7 PM at UUCWC.

We’ll be discussing the work of Elizabeth Kolbert the author of “The Sixth Extinction”.

A few of us attended her lecture at Princeton. George summarizes the points she made here:

  • She’s not optimistic: trends are worsening and we have Trump in office.

  • Animal extinctions are being caused for many reasons, not just climate change, but also population growth and land use, cutting rainforests, pesticides, travel and exposure to more toxins.

  • Good point from an audience comment: it seems that only non-democracies can make decisions promptly and comprehensively enough to address major challenges. Is that true?

  • There are two views of why we should preserve all species: (1) for their own sakes and our general appreciation, and (2) for pragmatic reasons (food, ecological stability, potential medicines, etc.) Both may be good motivations.

You can also check out this interview. What do you think?  To what extent can we halt the trends or create genetic databases in case we want to restore species in the future?


Prolific physicist author, Paul Davies asks the question “what is life?” in his latest book, The Demon in the Machine.  He postulates that “information” explains the difference between living and nonliving systems, and he encourages more research to bridge what seems to be a gap between physics and biology. He suggests that there must be an unknown law of physics that we need to discover to accomplish this.

Here’s a link to a 23-minute podcast interview with Davies.

But this article by Davies covers the topic in more depth.

For another take on what life is, see: “A New Physics Theory of Life” from 2014 at or here.

“… when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.”  The article suggests that self-replication and increasing structure are two other ways of dissipating energy and can be found among both nonliving and living systems. Hence there is some continuity between life and nonlife.

Join us for a thought-provoking discussion.