Archives for April 2014

April’s  Scholars  Gild  Discussion


Tuesday, April 15, 7:30 PM, Lower Gild Hall    


What is life, now?

Our own James S. Schwaber will lead our discussion topic “What is life, now?” This interesting look at genes and their relationship to what we mean by “life” has been the basis for presentations by Jim at leading academic institutions around the world.


In 1944, the Nobel Prize winning physicist Erwin Schroedinger published a highly influential book titled “What is Life”. In it Schroedinger proposed that each cell must carry within it a structure of heredity. He suggested this might be a crystal structure that must function as a code that contains instructions for development of life. He proposed this would be accessible by laws of chemistry and physics.

As a result many theoretical physicists were drawn to biology. Francis Crick, who then famously with James Watson, fulfilled Schroedinger’s predictions and described the structure, the DNA helix, containing the genes with information for formation and function of life.

In 1990, with great anticipation, Watson kicked-off The Human Genome Project. This Project would decode “the Book of Life”, producing “the instruction set” and “parts list” that cause us to be alive and to be us. In “The Selfish Gene” Richard Dawkins sneered that we are “gigantic lumbering robots” and that the genes are “…the ultimate rationale for our existence”.

So, here we are more than a decade since the completion of the Human Genome Project, and many questions remain to be answered. Our discussion will focus on the current understanding of DNA’s role in defining life, and what gaps and alternatives are out there.

Jim is a neuroscientist and neighbor, who has lived in the Ardens since 1981. Since 2001 he has been on the faculty of Thomas Jefferson University where he leads the Daniel Baugh Institute for Functional Ge [Read more…]