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Designing nature

Can we add design and law to nature through synthetic processes? Jane Calvert and Alistair Elfick discuss.

Forest of synthetic pyramidal dendrites grown using Cajal's laws of neuronal branching
Hermann Cuntz - PLoS Computational Biology Issue Image, Vol. 6(8) August 2010. PLoS Comput Biol 6(8): ev06.i08. doi:10.1371/image.pcbi.v06.i08. via Wikimedia Commons

Event description

Biology appears to be less law-like than its sister sciences, but could we change this with design? Jane Calvert and Alistair Elfick discuss synthetic biology, an emergent discipline that aims to rationally design and fabricate biological devices; and how applying engineering principles to living systems might help us harness the power of the natural world. This is the final of three guest-curated talks by Michela Massimi.This event is generously supported by the Leverhulme Trust international network 'Kant and the Laws of Nature'


About the speakers

Jane Calvert is a reader in Science Technology and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on sociology of the life sciences, and particularly on attempts to engineer living things in the emerging field of synthetic biology. 

Alistair Elfick is professor in the synthetic and systems biology group of the University of Edinburgh. He is Personal Chair in Synthetic Biological Engineering.

Guest curator

This event is part of a series of talks exploring the laws of nature in the physical and the life sciences, curated by Michela Massimi. She is an expert in Kant, and the intersection between contemporary philosophical problems and scientific practice. 

Others in the series are:

Please note that each event is stand-alone so you can attend as many as you wish.