Large Grants
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Current Program

2017-18 Agency in the Physical World
Submit RFP by February 1, 2018
Previous Programs

2016 Physics of the Observer
2016 Awardees

2015 The Physics of What Happens
2015 Awardees

2013 Physics of Information
2013 Awardees

2010 The Nature of Time
2010 Awardees

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2008 Awardees

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2006 Awardees

Jacob Biamonte
ISI Foundation


Mario Rasetti, ISI Foundation

Project Title

inert vs. living matter: facing the ultimate challenge of aggregate matter physics

Project Summary

If you were to send information to me, you might do so in English, with the message broken down into zeros and ones and sent through a wire. As has recently been discovered in biological experiments, cells — the building blocks that make up all life — communicate via a different language, via signals generated by small molecules. In the first track of this project we analyze the complexity of this language as it tells us how complex these life building blocks must be and what it takes to be living. In a second related track we ask how else might information be exchanged between parts of a living system. Our answer builds on the fact that the arrangement of matter and the relationship between its fundamental constituents itself represents a kind of language, which offers a medium for information exchange. In a third track, we explore how language may not only describe the communication between the building blocks of matter but also how they replicate and develop, a fundamental part of life. By studying this language of life one analyzes, from the perspective of information, what it means to be alive.

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