IAS Focused Program

Physics Approach to Simplifying Complexity in Biology


Both conventional physics and conventional biology fail to get at the heart of what makes biological systems such a unique state of matter. Previously, in the IAS Workshop on Evolution held in 2009, the limits of neoclassical evolution dynamics were explored. That workshop laid the seeds for the creation of the Physical Sciences Oncology Centers of the US National Cancer Institute, which aim to view cancer evolution dynamics from an entirely new perspective. This IAS focused program will tie together three fundamental physics ideas that emerged from that workshop, namely (1) the thermodynamics of systems far from equilibrium in complex environments; and (2) the dynamics of evolving systems in complex environments and (3) communication between evolving agents. These subject areas offer a rich meeting ground for physicists and biologists to probe fundamental questions regarding the complexity of life in a hard-science manner. The aim will be to find unifying, simple but deep principles which can tie together the bewildering complexity of biology from the unified perspective of physics which has been so successful in the past.

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