Power laws, predictable evolution, and the limits of life


Tuesday, December 01 2015 - 12:00 pm, PST
Chris Kempes
Santa Fe Institute

A central question in understanding the possibilities for life in the universe is what fundamental constraints and tradeoffs organize evolution. In this talk Dr. Kempes will discuss how power-laws in biology highlight common underlying constraints––often basic physical laws––across the diversity of life on our planet. He will then describe how work that we have done shows how these relationships can be derived and used to predict or interpret a range of phenomena including major evolutionary tradeoffs and ecological response. Specifically, Dr. Kempes will focus on energetic limitations in microbial life which allow us to predict the smallest possible bacteria and several other evolutionary transitions. Notably, he predicts that the smallest bacteria are limited by fundamental maintenance metabolism along with general space requirements. Dr. Kempes will also describe how similar work in vascular plants can be used to predict ecological structure from resource constraints and how this provides a range of tools for constraining and potentially detecting vegetation in a range of exoplanetary environments.

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