Life in a Violent Universe


Twentieth Annual Darwin College Lecture Series 2005

Lecture 8   :   11 March

Paul Davies




Violence is the leitmotif of the universe. It was born in a big bang. Its fundamental structure was forged in a searing maelstrom of unimaginable ferocity, at temperatures exceeding a trillion degrees. Its history is one of cataclysmic explosions, implosions and collisions of literally astronomical proportions. Yet amid this cosmic mayhem, life has not only emerged, but flourished. How has something so delicate and elaborate as life made a home amid the chaos of a violent universe? I shall examine three threats to life of increasing severity - the impact of comets and asteroids, the explosion of stars, and the big bang itself - and argue that each has a creative as well as a destructive aspect in the story of life. Indeed, it seems to some as if the universe is unreasonably bio-friendly.



PAUL DAVIES is Professor of Natural Philosophy in the Australian Centre for Astrobiology at Macquarie University. He previously held academic appointments in astronomy, physics and mathematics at the Universities of Cambridge, London, Newcastle upon Tyne and Adelaide. His research has spanned the fields of cosmology, gravitation, and quantum field theory, with particular emphasis on black holes and the origin of the universe. His monograph Quantum Fields in Curved Space, co-authored with former student Nicholas Birrell, is widely used. Davies is also interested in the nature of time, high-energy particle physics, the foundations of quantum mechanics, the origin of life and the nature of consciousness.

Professor Davies is well known as an author, broadcaster and public lecturer. He has written over twenty-five books, both popular and specialist works. They have been translated into more than twenty languages. These include God and the New Physics, The Cosmic Blueprint, The Mind of God, The Last Three Minutes, About Time and Are We Alone? And How to Build a Time Machine.

He was elected as Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature in 1999. And is recipient of several prestigious prizes, including: the ABC Eureka Prize for the promotion of science in Australia, the 2001 Kelvin Medal, the Michael Faraday Prize, and the Templeton Prize. 

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