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ASU's Origins Project to explore origins of life, Universe

By

Skip Derra

Ever since life first formed on Earth, there has been competition for its resources. This competition helped push life forms, including humans, into forming groups. But where and when did this nature to compete begin, and why, even today, is it so prevalent in human society when logically it would make more sense to cooperate to extend resources?

Even more deeply, where did life itself come from? And where did the Universe come from?

ASU’s Origins Project will explore origins of life and the Universe, as well as the genesis of some of our social constructs in its winter schedule of events, titled: "From the Origin of the Universe to the Origin of Xenophobia."

Events will include world-renowned scientists and celebrities discussing the most advanced thoughts on our origins as well as origins of social mores. Freeman Dyson, Jeffrey Sachs and Frans de Waal are a few of the prominent scientists and celebrities taking part in the events.

The signature event of the winter series will be a conversation with Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss on the origins of the Universe.

“Origins has always strived to complement the first-rate workshops on the frontiers of science with exciting public events designed to inspire, inform and entertain,” Krauss said. “The winter events will provide an enriching experience while raising fascinating issues of wide public interest.

"I am particularly excited by the combination and honored that such a stellar group has agreed to participate. I hope the university community and the broader public will join us and continue to enjoy our offerings.”

Some events are free, some will be ticketed and all are open to the public, Krauss added. All events will take place at ASU’s Tempe campus.

Space-Time, Quantum Mechanics and the Large Hadron Collider
7 p.m., Jan. 25, Discovery Hall, room 250. Free, non-ticketed.

Theoretical Physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed, professor in the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study, will discuss “Space-Time, Quantum Mechanics, and the Large Hadron Collider.” Arkani-Hamed's research has shown how the extreme weakness of gravity, relative to other forces of nature, might be explained by the existence of extra dimensions of space, and how the structure of comparatively low-energy physics is constrained within the context of string theory.

Something from Nothing? A conversation with Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss
7 p.m., Feb. 4, Gammage Auditorium
This is a ticketed event. Tickets now on sale, contact Gammage Box Office, (480) 965-3434 or Ticketmaster.

Join critically acclaimed author and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and world-renowned theoretical physicist and author Lawrence Krauss as they discuss biology, cosmology, religion and a host of other topics. A book signing will follow the discussion.

The authors also will discuss their new books. Dawkins recently published "The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True," an exploration of the magic of discovery embodied in the practice of science. Krauss's latest book, "A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing," explains the scientific advances that provide insight into how the universe formed. Krauss tackles the age-old assumption that something cannot arise from nothing by arguing that not only can something arise from nothing, but something will always arise from nothing.

War and Peace in the World of Ants
7 p.m., March 29, Murdoch Hall, Room 101. Free, non-ticketed.

Bert Hoelldobler, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author and ASU Foundation professor, will explain the world of ants and the parallels between ant and human conflict. This is the dilemma of social evolution – wherever closely integrated societies exist there is discrimination and rejection of foreigners.

Great Debate: Xenophobia, why do we fear others?
7 p.m., March 31, Gammage Auditorium
This is a ticketed event. Tickets on sale March 1, contact Gammage Box Office, (480) 965-3434 or Ticketmaster.

Is our instinct to form in-groups and out-groups, such an important part of our evolutionary history, now maladaptive as we face a future increasingly dependent upon cooperation and shared responsibilities toward limited resources?

Join a panel of leading scientists, scholars, and public intellectuals, including renowned primatologist Frans de Waal, leading international economic advisor and director of the Earth Institute Jeffrey Sachs, revolutionary cognitive neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe, distinguished theoretical physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson, and provocative New York Times editorialist Charles Blow, as they discuss the biological and sociological dimensions of this timely issue. 

For more information on any of these events, please go to www.origins.asu.edu, or call (480) 965-0053.