Nasser Zakariya

John C. Haas Fellow, 2010–2011

Current Research

My research at CHF examines how the question of the chemical conditions for life was integrated into scientific authorship of the natural history of the world. My recently completed dissertation, Towards a Final Story: Time, Myth and the Origins of the Universe, examined the emergence, composition, distribution, and form of “the scientific epic,” the contemporary universal history relating the origins of humanity and life to the origins of the material world. A critical part of this history is dependent on the chemistry of life, with experimental work initiated in the early 1950s, as chemists sought to demonstrate how in the environment of early Earth, life could be sparked through material, naturalistic processes alone. 

The chemical conditions for the emergence of life remain one of the guiding motivations for contemporary “origins”-based research, informing, for example, the question of biosignatures on other planets as signs and preconditions of life. How did experiments simulating early Earth operationalize their definitions of the chemistry of life? How much was the ambition to relate a complete history of the world and life enabled and structured by the confidence that the first sparks of life could be naturalized through considerations of the appropriate chemistries? How much is this related to the question of the possibility of life elsewhere and structured by the possibility of alternative chemistries of life? I hope to examine these questions as well as how they inform the narration of the genealogy of life on Earth.


"Optimal Voting Rules for Two Member Tenure Committees" (with Colin Rowat and Ian Ayres), forthcoming in Social Choice and Welfare.

“A Final Story,” Sh’ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility 40:663 (October 2009).

"Organic and Mechanistic Time and the Limits of Narrative" (with Ilya Kliger), Configurations 15:3, 2007 (c. 2009).

"The Historic Trajectory of Hubble: Review, Robert Zimmerman The Universe in a Mirror: The Saga of the Hubble Space Telescope and the Visionaries Who Built It," Endeavour 33:1 (March 2009).

“To Insure Prejudice: Racial Disparities in Taxicab Tipping” (with Ian Ayres and Fred Vars), 114 Yale Law Journal 1613 (2005).

Fellowships at CHF

CHF’s scholars, who spend anywhere from one to nine months in residence, form a vital part of CHF’s intellectual life.