EP40 Eric Smith on the Physics of Living Systems



Multidimensional thinker Eric Smith has a wide-ranging talk with Jim about the origins of life, monetary systems, language & sustainability. Eric starts by sharing how geochemistry informs the origin of life topic, the dynamics of autocatalytic processes, how little we know about biological systems & what this might tell us about the Fermi paradox. The conversation then goes into the importance of institutions & a dynamic perspective on monetary systems, the subprime mortgage crisis, money substitutes & crypto. They then finish this chat by talking about Eric’s interest in linguistics & what it can learn from modern probability, key areas of focus for ecosystem sustainability, the challenge of reconciling ‘small local’ & ‘global policy’ approaches to sustainability, the role of civil society, and much more.

Episode Transcript

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D. Eric Smith received the Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in 1987, and a Ph.D. in Physics from The University of Texas at Austin in 1993, with a dissertation on problems in string theory and high-temperature superconductivity. From 1993 to 2000 he worked in physical, nonlinear, and statistical acoustics at the Applied Research Labs: U. T. Austin, and at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. From 2000 he has worked at the Santa Fe Institute on problems of self-organization in thermal, chemical, and biological systems. A focus of his current work is the statistical mechanics of the transition from the geochemistry of the early earth to the first levels of biological organization, with some emphasis on the emergence of the metabolic network.


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