Active Self Disassembly: Towards a Physics of Death


Thursday, April 25, 2024
11:00 - 12:00


The concept of ‘self-assembly’ was first invented by two physicists in 1962 to explain the construction of viral capsids. Since then, the idea that biology is ‘self-assembled soft matter’ has become commonplace. However, biology at all length scales – from molecules through cells and organisms to ecosystems – also depends vitally on processes of active self-disassembly. Living systems have evolved to use energy to deconstruct part or all of themselves in highly-organised ways, and feedback building blocks to self-assembly processes. ‘Programmed (or regulated) cell death’ in our tissues is a good example, but ‘death’ at all levels has been highly-evolved to enable life to function. In this talk, I consider what such a ‘physics of death’ may look like, report briefly some ongoing work in this direction, and explain why such research may have a vital role to play in the drive towards a more sustainable ‘circular economy’.


Dutch Institute for Emergent Phenomena (DIEP)


IAS second floor library room

Room number

2nd floor library


Group Seminar


biophysics, complexity, computational physics, condensed matter theory, emergence, soft matter


Wilson Poon

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