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Theoretical Physics and the Phenomena of Life: How Much Can We Calculate?

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Whether we are looking up at a flock of birds, coherent yet fluid as they move the sky, or peering through a microscope at the intricate dance of cells in a developing embryo, we are struck by the elegance, precision, and complexity of life. Can we imagine theories of these phenomena that are as deep and compelling as we have in the rest of theoretical physics, yet still engage with the myriad details of real biological systems? Professor Bialek believes the answer is yes, and in this lecture he will try to explain the reasons for his optimism using examples from embryonic development to neural coding and computation, and from the structure and dynamics of single protein molecules to the behavior of thousands of birds in a flock. In all these cases, theory is advancing hand in hand with a new generation of experiments.

William Bialek
Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics and Department of Physics
Princeton University

Created November 8, 2013, Updated January 5, 2017