Biology is a place where two major themes that currently lie at the frontier of condensed matter physics converge: first, the idea that “more is different” – that is, that interactions in complex systems at one scale lead to fundamentally new emergent principles at a larger scale – and second that a proper understanding of nonequilibrium fluctuations is crucial for scientific progress.
From this perspective, there is a wide variety of biological systems with interesting physical properties. These include the complex interaction networks formed by DNA and proteins inside the cell, fluctuations that occur in populations of organisms and active matter, such as swimming algae or bacteria, in which the constituent particles consume energy to perform mechanical work. In recent years, many condensed matter and statistical physicists have begun to investigate these and other topics. By seeing things with a fresh eye, and in particular being alert to the huge role played by noise effects, these physicists have brought many new insights and methods of analysis, and asked many new questions about the building blocks of life. This meeting will bring together physicists from around the world to share the intellectual challenges they face in this emerging area.