Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos

Luke Barnes, postdoctoral researcher at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy, School of Physics, University of Sydney

The Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA) 2016 Harley Wood Lecture for the ASA 50th anniversary Annual Scientific Meeting

6 July, 2016

Over the last 40 years, scientists have uncovered evidence that if the Universe had been forged with even slightly different properties, life as we know it - and life as we can imagine it - would be impossible. With small tweaks to the way the Universe works, we can erase the periodic table, disintegrate particles and remove all traces of structure in the cosmos.

Join us on a journey through how we understand the Universe, from its most basic particles and forces, to planets, stars and galaxies, and back through cosmic history to the birth of the cosmos.


Luke Barnes

Luke Barnes is a postdoctoral researcher at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy. Having gained his PhD from the University of Cambridge, he has published papers in the field of galaxy formation and on the fine-tuning of the Universe for life. His forthcoming book co-written with Geraint Lewis A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos will be published by Cambridge University Press in September.

He has been invited to speak at the 2011 and 2015 St Thomas Summer Seminars in Philosophy of Religion and Philosophical Theology, the University of California Summer School for the Philosophy of Cosmology, and numerous public lectures.


Professor Mark Colyvan, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney. His research includes work on philosophy of mathematics, decision theory, and philosophy of probability.

The Harley Wood Lecture

The Harley Wood Lecture was inaugurated in 1984 as an annual lecture in honour of the first President of the Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA). Harley Wood was Director of Sydney Observatory for over thirty years from 1943 to 1974, during which time the Observatory was engaged in the Astrographic Catalogue, a mammoth international project to photograph the whole sky. His work in the wider context of the Australian and international astronomical community was prolific. He was also heavily involved in the popularisation of astronomy and making astronomy available to everyone. In particular, he was at the forefront of moves to draw Australian astronomers together into a professional organisation and in recognition of this work became the Foundation president of the ASA.