Last week I let you know about my upcoming series of talks about life. Here’s an update with the details of the full schedule. All four events will take place at Caveat in Manhattan:

9/6 I’ll kick off the series with the fundamental question, “What is life?” First I’ll talk to a philosopher, Carlos Mariscal, about why this question is so hard to answer–perhaps because the question itself doesn’t make sense. Then I’ll speak with Sara Imari Walker, a physicist and astrobiologist, about how she answers the question as part of the search for extraterrestrial life.

11/1 How did life start? Geochemist H James Cleaves II and I will talk about the century-long struggle to answer that question. I’ll then talk with astrobiologist Caleb Scharf about where that struggle has left us today, and where it’s headed.

12/6 Is life inevitable? MIT physicist Jeremy England and I talk about his theory about how life emerges out of physics. I then ask biologist Steven Benner about whether life has to be the way it is on Earth, or if it can exist in weird forms we can barely imagine.

12/20 What did the first life look like? Microbial ecologist Donato Giovonelli and I will talk about his travels to the extreme places on Earth that may be the best models for where the earliest life existed. Finally, I’ll talk to Kate Adamala about how she studies the first life forms–by trying to create them from scratch.

The Seasons of the Microbiome

In 2010, I wrote my first article for the New York Times about the human microbiome. In the seven years since, research on our bacterial ecosystem has taken off. It’s now becoming clear that there is no such thing as “the” human microbiome. There are many of them, and they’re different from place to place. If you are a suburban American, for example, you have a microbiome that’s shaped by your existence–the refined foods you eat, the antibiotics you take for infections, the antibacterial soap you use to wash your hands, and so on. If you’re a hunter-gatherer, you have a microbiome shaped by your very different life.

Researchers are now gaining an understanding of the many human microbiomes. In my column this week for the New York Times, I report on research on the Hadza, a small group of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania. The work is revealing all sorts of surprises, including a microbiome that cycles with the seasons. (Photo by Jeff Leach.)

Award News

This week the finalists were announced for the Online Journalism Awards. I’m delighted that my series for Stat, “Game of Genomes” is a finalist for explanatory journalism.


Upcoming Talks

September 6, New York, “What Is Life?” Details here.

September 6, New York, Rockefeller University. “Science, Journalism, and Democracy: Grappling with a New Reality.” I’ll be giving the keynote lecture for this day-long meeting. You can watch in person or via livestream. Details here.

October 4, Boston, Festival of Genomics. “Game of Genomes: How the Public Can Learn About Genomics Through about Their Own Genomes.” A panel discussion with some of the scientists who helped me with my series for Stat.

October 11, Stony Brook University, New York: Provost’s Lecture

October 28 & 29, San Francisco. World Conference of Science Journalists. I’ll be speaking at two sessions. Details here.

November 1, New York. “What Is Life?” Night 2: How did life start?

November 8, University of Oxford. Twelfth Annual Baruch Blumberg Lecture

December 6, New York. “What Is Life?” Night 3: Is life inevitable?

December 20, New York. “What Is Life?” Night 4: What did the first life look like?

January 3-7, 2018 San Francisco: Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Meeting, Plenary Lecture

The End
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Best wishes, Carl

Originally published August 25, 2017. Copyright 2017 Carl Zimmer.