Monday 14 March, 2011

Mechanical Ghosts – The search for the definition of life

Mike McRae, CSIRO

For centuries, philosophers and biologists have sought a way to describe a thin line between the living and the not. Some were convinced there was an “essence” unique to living processes, while others believed that physics and chemistry alone could suffice. Few could have predicted the amazing discoveries that would eventually lead to the field of modern genetics.

This month, Mike McRae from the CSIRO will discuss some of these ongoing questions. Is there a definitive boundary around the phenomenon that is life? Do we need special universal laws to explain consciousness?  Is it possible that there is an undetected biosphere sharing our planet?

And as we look away from Earth in search of new stars and planets, the question of extraterrestrial life is never far from our minds. But just what is it we’re looking for?

  • Time: 6:30pm to 7:30pm (Doors open at 6pm)
  • Venue: Long Room, Customs House at Riverside
  • Refreshments: There will be complimentary drinks and nibblies following the talk, where Mike McRae will be available to answer any questions
  • Questions? Contact Andrew (

Canberra based science writer Mike McRae started his career testing other people’s poo in a Queensland medical laboratory. On discovering a passion for education, he jumped ship and found himself teaching adolescents in London’s notorious east end, followed by a year touring Australia performing with Questacon’s Science Circus learning the finer details of engaging the public in matters of science. Today he writes for the CSIRO’s educational publications, juggling his studies in medical anthropology and freelancing as an illustrator in his spare time.


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