It was a sold-out night on Wednesday at Caveat, the new New York science-themed venue that’s hosting my live series, “What is Life?” this fall.

I talked to a philosopher and an astrobiologist about how they define life, bringing out some props to figure out where they stand, life-wise: some lichen from my yard, a wind-up toy, a vial of viruses, and a rusty nail.

Sara Imari Walker of Arizona State University (in the photo) told the audience that I was talking about life as a thing, whereas she thought of it as a process. I took an applause-based survey, and discovered that they agreed.

The next Caveat conversation will be on November 1. The question of the night will be, How did life start?

Earlier on Wednesday, I gave the keynote talk at a meeting at Rockefeller University called “Science, Democracy, and Journalism.” I explored a disastrous episode in the history of science, when the Soviet Union turned away from biology and persecuted geneticists. I found some disturbing parallels to the state of science in the United States today. I posted the text of my speech on Medium, with links and sources.


Upcoming Talks

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

NEW: February 15, 2018: Rochester, NY: Neilly Lecture Series, River Campus Libraries. 

The End
As always, if you have friends who would enjoy getting this newsletter, please let them know they can sign up at

You can also follow me on TwitterFacebookGoodreadsLinkedIn, and Google+. And there’s always

Best wishes, Carl

Originally published September 8, 2017. Copyright 2017 Carl Zimmer.