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Paul C. W. Davies

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Paul C. W. Davies

For other people named Paul Davies, see Paul Davies (disambiguation).
Paul Davies
Paul Davies, September 2006
Born Paul Charles William Davies
(1946-04-22) 22 April 1946 (age 68)
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 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 Kelvin Medal (2001)
Faraday Prize (2002)
Templeton Prize (1995)

Paul Charles William Davies, 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.


Davies was brought up in Finchley, London, and attended Woodhouse Grammar School on Woodhouse Road. He then studied Physics at UCL, gaining a 1st class BSc 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 New York Times,[8] generated controversy over its exploration of the role of faith in scientific inquiry. Davies argued that the faith scientists have in the immutability of physical laws has origins in Christian theology, and that the claim that science is "free of faith" is "manifestly bogus."[8] The Edge Foundation presented a criticism of Davies' article written by Jerry Coyne, Nathan Myhrvold, Lawrence Krauss, Scott Atran, Sean Carroll, Jeremy Bernstein, PZ Myers, Lee Smolin, John Horgan, 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 Wall Street Journal where he described the background to the 2 December 2010 arsenic bacteria press conference and stated that he supported the 'arsenic can replace phosphorus' idea of Felisa Wolfe-Simon because "I had the advantage of being unencumbered by knowledge. I dropped chemistry at the age of 16, and all I knew about arsenic came from Agatha Christie novels."[12] In the same vein, in an article in The Guardian, Davies suggests that the origin of life will be uncovered through information theory rather than chemistry.[13] Concerns have been raised about his responsibility as one of Wolfe-Simon's co-authors.[14]

Popular culture

  • The novel Naive, Super, by Norwegian writer Erlend Loe (translated by Tor Ketil Solberg), published in 1996, refers to Davies frequently.
  • He has an Erdős Number of three.[15]
  • 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.


Popular books

Essays and papers

  • "ISBN 1-890151-39-4


External links

  • 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
  • Mathematics Genealogy Project
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Life & Building E.T. - Davies' podcast interview on Ask A Biologist
  • The Guardian
  • NYT, 2007
  • Oral Roberts University
  • National Review
  • Premier Christian Radio


On an Ultimate Explanation:

  • Part 1
  • Part 2
  • Part 3
  • Part 4
  • Part 5

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