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Paul Davies

Paul Davies
Paul Davies, September 2006
Born Paul Charles William Davies
(1946-04-22) 22 April 1946
London, UK
Nationality British
Fields Physicist
Institutions Arizona State University
University of Cambridge
University of Adelaide
Macquarie University
University of Newcastle
Alma mater University College London
Thesis Contributions to theoretical physics: (i) Radiation damping in the optical continuum; (ii) A quantum theory of Wheeler–Feynman electrodynamics (1970)
Doctoral advisor Michael J. Seaton[1]
Sigurd Zienau
Other academic advisors Fred Hoyle (as a postdoc)
Doctoral students Nicholas Birrell
Edmund Copeland
Kerry Hinton
Don Koks
Andrew Matacz
Carol Oliver
William Walker
Andy Wright[1]
Known for Fulling–Davies–Unruh effect
Bunch–Davies vacuum state
Notable awards Templeton Prize (1995)
Kelvin Medal (2001)
Faraday Prize (2002)
Klumpke-Roberts Award (2011)

Paul Charles William Davies, AM (born 22 April 1946) is an English physicist, writer and broadcaster, a professor at Arizona State University as well as the Director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. He is affiliated with the Institute for Quantum Studies at Chapman University in California. He has held previous academic appointments at the University of Cambridge, University College London, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, University of Adelaide and Macquarie University. His research interests are in the fields of cosmology, quantum field theory, and astrobiology. He has proposed that a one-way trip to Mars could be a viable option.

In 2005, he took up the chair of the SETI: Post-Detection Science and Technology Taskgroup of the International Academy of Astronautics. He is also an adviser to the Microbes Mind Forum.


  • Education 1
  • Scientific research 2
  • Awards 3
  • Media work 4
  • In popular culture 5
  • Works 6
    • Popular books 6.1
    • Technical books 6.2
    • Essays and papers 6.3
  • Footnotes 7
  • External links 8
    • Videos 8.1


Davies was brought up in Finchley, London. He attended Woodhouse Grammar School and then studied physics at University College London, gaining a first class Bachelor of Science degree in 1967.

In 1970, he completed his PhD under the supervision of Michael J. Seaton and Sigurd Zienau at University College London.[1][2] He then carried out postdoctoral research under Fred Hoyle at the University of Cambridge.

Scientific research

Davies' inquiries have included theoretical physics, cosmology, and astrobiology; his research has been mainly in the area of quantum field theory in curved spacetime. His notable contributions are the so-called Fulling–Davies–Unruh effect, according to which an observer accelerating through empty space will perceive a bath of thermal radiation, and the Bunch–Davies vacuum state, often used as the basis for explaining the fluctuations in the cosmic background radiation left over from the big bang. A paper co-authored with Stephen Fulling and William Unruh was the first to suggest that black holes evaporating via the Hawking effect lose mass as a result of a flux of negative energy streaming into the hole from the surrounding space. Davies has had a longstanding association with the problem of time's arrow, and was also an early proponent of the theory that life on Earth may have come from Mars cocooned in rocks ejected by asteroid and comet impacts. During his time in Australia he helped establish the Australian Centre for Astrobiology.

Davies was a co-author of Felisa Wolfe-Simon on the Science article "A Bacterium That Can Grow by Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus".[3] Reports refuting the most significant aspects of the original results were published in the same journal in 2012, including by researchers from the University of British Columbia and Princeton University.[4]

Davies is Principal Investigator at Arizona State University's Center for Convergence of Physical Science and Cancer Biology. This is part of a program set up by the National Institutes of Health's National Cancer Institute to involve physicists in cancer research which has set up a network of 12 Physical Sciences-Oncology Centers.[5][6][7]


Davies' talent as a communicator of science has been recognized in Australia by an Advance Australia Award and two Eureka Prizes, and in the UK by the 2001 Kelvin Medal and Prize by the Institute of Physics, and the 2002 Faraday Prize by The Royal Society. Davies received the Templeton Prize in 1995.

Davies was made a member of the Order of Australia in the 2007 Queen's birthday honours list.

The asteroid 6870 Pauldavies is named after him.

Media work

Davies writes and comments on scientific and philosophical issues. He made a documentary series for BBC Radio 3, and two Australian television series, The Big Questions and More Big Questions. His BBC documentary The Cradle of Life featured the subject of his Faraday Prize lecture. He writes regularly for newspapers and magazines worldwide. He has been guest on numerous radio and television programmes including the children podcast programme Ask A Biologist.

An opinion piece published in the Alan Sokal and a response by Davies beginning I was dismayed at how many of my detractors completely misunderstood what I had written. Indeed, their responses bore the hallmarks of a superficial knee-jerk reaction to the sight of the words "science" and "faith" juxtaposed.[9] While atheists Richard Dawkins[10] and Victor J. Stenger[11] have criticised Davies' public stance on science and religion, others including the John Templeton Foundation, have praised his work.

Davies wrote an article in the

On an Ultimate Explanation:


  • Paul Davies at Arizona State University
  • BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science
  • Microbes Mind Forum
  • SETI: Post-Detection Science and Technology Taskgroup
  • Interview with Paul Davies at Astroseti.Org
  • Summary of Davies' works and biography
  • Paul Davies at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  • Paul Davies at the Internet Movie Database
  • Life & Building E.T. – Davies' podcast interview on Ask A Biologist
  • Paul Davies's articles in The Guardian
  • Taking Science on Faith in NYT, 2007
  • Davies to speak on science and science fiction, Science Fiction Conference 12–13 April 2012 at Oral Roberts University
  • Audio interview with Davies on alien intelligence at National Review
  • Paul Davies in a debate on 'Are we alone in the universe?' on Premier Christian Radio

External links

  1. ^ a b c Paul Davies at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ Davies, Paul (1970). Contributions to theoretical physics: (i) Radiation damping in the optical continuum; (ii) A quantum theory of Wheeler–Feynham electrodynamics (PhD thesis). University College London. (subscription required)
  3. ^ Wolfe-Simon, F.; Blum, J. S.; Kulp, T. R.; Gordon, G. W.; Hoeft, S. E.; Pett-Ridge, J.; Stolz, J. F.; Webb, S. M.; Weber, P. K.; Davies, P. C. W.; Anbar, A. D.; Oremland, R. S. (2011). "A Bacterium That Can Grow by Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus". Science 332 (6034): 1163–1166.  
  4. ^ Erb, T. J.; Kiefer, P.; Hattendorf, B.; Gunther, D.; Vorholt, J. A. (2012). "GFAJ-1 is an Arsenate-Resistant, Phosphate-Dependent Organism". Science 337 (6093): 467–470.  
  5. ^ "Center for Convergence of Physical Science and Cancer Biology". Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Davies, Paul (18 November 2012). "Cancer can teach us about our own evolution". The Guardian. 
  7. ^ Davies, Paul (19 Jun 2013). "Cancer from a physicist's perspective: a new theory of cancer". New Scientist. 
  8. ^ a b Davies, Paul (2007-11-24). "Taking Science on Faith".  
  9. ^ Jerry Coyne; Nathan Myhrvold; Lawrence Krauss; Scott Atran; Sean Carroll; Jeremy Bernstein; PZ Myers; Lee Smolin; John Horgan; Alan Sokal. "On "Taking Science on Faith" by Paul C. Davies". Retrieved 2010-09-28. 
  10. ^ Richard Dawkins (2006). "A Deeply Religious Non-Believer". The God Delusion.  
  11. ^ Victor J. Stenger. "The Cosmic Blueprint"Review of . Science & Theology News.  
  12. ^ Davies, Paul (4 December 2010). "The 'Give Me a Job' Microbe".  
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Studies refute arsenic bug claim". BBC News. 9 July 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-10. 
  15. ^ Tobias J. Erb; Patrick Kiefer; Bodo Hattendorf; Detlef Gunter; et al. (8 July 2012). "GFAJ-1 Is an Arsenate-Resistant, Phosphate-Dependent Organism". Science 337 (6093): 467–70.  
  16. ^ RRResearch By Rosie Redfield. 16 January 2012
  17. ^ Marshall Louis Reaves; Sunita Sinha; Joshua Rabinowitz; Leonid Kruglyak; et al. (8 July 2012). "Absence of Detectable Arsenate in DNA from Arsenate-Grown GFAJ-1 Cells". Science 337 (6093): 470–3.  
  18. ^ Davies, Paul (13 January 2013). "The secret of life won't be cooked up in a chemistry lab". The Guardian (London). 
  19. ^
  20. ^ Ørsted, Bent (1983). , by N. D. Birrell and P. C. W. Davies"Quantum Fields in Curved Space"Review: (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. (N.S.) 8 (3): 471–477.  


Essays and papers

  • 1974 The Physics of Time Asymmetry, University of California Press, Berkeley California,
  • 1982 (with N. D. Birrell) Quantum Fields in Curved Space, Series: Cambridge Monographs on Mathematical Physics, Cambridge University Press.[20]
  • 1984 Quantum Mechanics, (with David S. Betts), 2nd edition, CRC Press, 1994.

Technical books

  • 1974 The Physics of Time Asymmetry, University of California Press, Berkeley, California, ISBN 0-520-03247-0
  • 1978 The Runaway Universe, Penguin Books, ISBN 0-460-04286-6
  • 1979 Stardoom, Harper Collins Publishers Ltd, ISBN 0-00-635318-5
  • 1980 Other Worlds, Touchstone/Simon and Schuster, ISBN 0-460-04400-1
  • 1981 The Edge of Infinity, Penguin USA, ISBN 0-14-023194-3
  • 1982 The Accidental Universe, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-28692-1
  • 1982 Quantum Fields in Curved Space, (with N.D. Birrell), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-27858-9
  • 1983 God and the New Physics, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-14-022550-1
  • 1984 Superforce, Touchstone, ISBN 0-04-539006-1
  • 1986 The Ghost in the Atom, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-31316-3
  • 1987 The Cosmic Blueprint, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-04-440182-5
  • 1988 Superstrings: A Theory of Everything, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-35741-1
  • 1991 The Matter Myth, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-670-83585-4
  • 1992 The Mind of God, Simon & Schuster UK, ISBN 0-671-71069-9
  • 1994 The Last Three Minutes, Basic Books, ISBN 1-85799-336-5
  • 1995 Are We Alone?, Basic Books, ISBN 0-14-025179-0
  • 1995 About Time: Einstein's Unfinished Revolution, Penguin Books, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0-670-84761-5
  • 1998 The Fifth Miracle: The Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-684-83799-4
  • 2002 How to Build a Time Machine, Penguin Books, ISBN 0-14-100534-3
  • 2003 The Origin of Life, Penguin Books, ISBN 0-14-101302-8
  • 2007 The Goldilocks Enigma, also under the title Cosmic Jackpot, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 0-14-102326-0
  • 2008 Quantum Aspects of Life (eds. Derek Abbott, Paul C. W. Davies, and Arun K. Pati, with foreword by Sir Roger Penrose), Imperial College Press, ISBN 1-84816-267-7
  • 2010 The Eerie Silence, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 1-4001-6551-2
  • 2010 Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-76225-0

Popular books


  • The novel Naive, Super, by Norwegian writer Erlend Loe (translated by Tor Ketil Solberg), published in 1996, refers to Davies frequently.
  • Numbers (season 5, episode 12) refers to Paul Davies' Cosmic Think Tank at Arizona State.
  • Lawrence Leung's Unbelievable (season 1, episode 3), Leung interviews Paul Davies on Alien abduction, where Paul admits to having experienced sleep paralysis.

In popular culture

[19] Concerns have been raised about his responsibility as one of Wolfe-Simon's co-authors.[18], Davies suggests that the origin of life will be uncovered through information theory rather than chemistry.The Guardian In the same vein, in an article in [17][16][15][14]

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