What Is Life? A Podcast Series

2 min readJan 31, 2019

Update: If you’d like to learn more about scientists exploring the borderlands between the living and nonliving worlds, check out my new book Life’s Edge: The Search For What It Means To Be Alive.

As a science writer, I report in articles and books about the many wondrous forms life can take, from brilliant cephalopods to cunning viruses. But sometimes I stop and wonder about life itself. What is it? How do we define it? How do we know it when we see it? Why does it exist at all?

To explore these questions, I hosted a series of live conversations with some leading thinkers on life—including chemists, physicists, and a philosopher — at Caveat in New York City. You can now listen to all eight episodes of “What Is Life?” on iTunes, Libsyn, or wherever you get your podcasts (RSS). If you like it, please rate and review it so others can find out about it too. Thanks!

Here are links to show notes and embedded individual episodes:

Episode 1. Carlos Mariscal: What Do We Mean When We Ask, “What Is Life?”

Episode 2. Sara Imari Walker: If We Find Alien Life, Will We Even Know It?

Episode 3. Jim Cleaves: The Origin of Life, From Frankenstein to a Laboratory Flask

Episode 4. Caleb Scharf: How Did Life Begin?

Episode 5. Jeremy England: Why Does Life Exist?

Episode 6: Steven Benner: How Weird Can Life Get?

Episode 7. Donatello Giovannelli: Warm Ponds Or Hellish Vents–Where Did Life Begin?

Episode 8. Kate Adamala: Can We Make Life?

What Is Life? is supported by a grant from Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative. Artwork by Caryn Audenried.




New York Times columnist. New book: She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity http://bit.ly/SheHasHerMothersLaugh