Image - Carl Zimmer

Past Event

Carl Zimmer: What It Means to Be Alive

Life is everywhere. From birds in the sky to bushes on the ground to the humans who surround our everyday lives. We assume life is easily identifiable, yet as scientists learn more about the living world, they find life to be a difficult word to define. In his new book Life's Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive, acclaimed scientific author Carl Zimmer seeks to answer one of biology’s greatest questions: What is life? The question hangs over some of society’s most charged conflicts—whether a fertilized egg is a living person, for example, and when we ought to declare a person legally dead.

Life’s Edge explores lab experiments attempting to create life, poses questions of what life is like in our grand universe, and offers insight into scientific developments shaping the way we understand living beings. Charting the obsession with Dr. Frankenstein's monster and how Coleridge came to believe the whole universe was alive, Zimmer leads us all the way into the labs and minds of researchers working on engineering life from the ground up.

Join us as Carl Zimmer explores life and investigates why scientists have struggled to define the boundaries of the word.


This is a free-for-members program. Members: Click on the "Buy Tickets" button above to order your tickets, and select the members link on the left side of the page. Your username is the email you used to sign up as a member. You can also request a password reset if needed. Discount will automatically be applied at checkout.

Copies of Life's Edge are available for purchase during checkout. Purchased books will be sent to the address provided at checkout (domestic U.S. addresses only).

This is an online-only program; you must pre-register to receive a link to the live-stream event.

We can accommodate a limited amount of complimentary access for those for whom cost is a barrier. Please email

This program is done in association with Wonderfest.

March 10, 2021

United States

Image - Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer

Columnist, The New York Times; Author, Life's Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive

Image - Rachel Becker

In Conversation with Rachel Becker

Environment Reporter, CalMatters