DATE: Sunday, June 1, 2008
TIME: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
VENUE: NYU Kimmel Center, Eisner & Lubin Auditorium
MODERATOR: John Hockenberry
PARTICIPANTS: Paul Davies, Steven Benner, Maggie Turnbull

Life. Some scientists are searching the cosmos for habitable cradles of it, others are combing Earth for exotic forms of it, while others still are on the verge of creating it in the lab. The forms life could take seem endless — at least in theory. But are there universal laws of life, much like the fundamental laws of physics, which govern or limit the characteristics that make it — in any form — possible? Our audience joined John Hockenberry for a vibrant discussion with leading astrobiologists Paul Davies, Steven Benner and Maggie Turnbull as they looked at life through the lens of chemistry and physics in search of life as we don’t know it.

Image © Roxana González | Dreamstime.com

  • Share This:


John Hockenberry

Three-time Peabody Award winner, four-time Emmy Award winner, and Dateline NBC correspondent John Hockenberry has broad experience as a journalist and commentator for more than two decades. Hockenberry is the anchor of the public radio show The Takeaway on WNYC and PRI. He has reported from all over the world, in virtually every medium, having anchored programs for network, cable, and radio. Hockenberry is a noted presenter and moderator at conferences such as TED, Aspen Ideas, and the World Science Festival.


Physicist, Cosmologist, Astrobiologist

Paul Davies is a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist, and best-selling author. He is Regents’ Professor at Arizona State University, where he is Director of Beyond: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, co-director of the Cosmology Initiative and principal investigator of the Center for the Convergence of Physical Science and Cancer Biology. He previously held academic appointments in the UK and Australia. His research focuses on the “big questions”, from the origin of the universe to the origin of life. His most recent popular book is The Eerie Silence: Are We Alone in the Universe? He has received the Templeton Prize, the Royal Society’s Faraday Prize, the Kelvin Medal of the UK Institute of Physics, the Robinson Cosmology Prize, and many book awards. He is a member of the Order of Australia and a recipient of the Bicentenary Medal of Chile. The asteroid (6870) Pauldavies is named in his honor.

Synthetic Biologist

Steven Benner is one of the pioneers of synthetic biology, which seeks to create artificial living systems. He is a Distinguished Fellow at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Gainesville, Florida and a founder of the Westheimer Institute for Science.


Margaret Turnbull leads the science team of the NASA New Worlds Observer mission looking for Earth-like planets and signs of alien life. She is an astrobiologist at the Global Science Institute in Wisconsin.