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Biogenesis: Theories of Life's Origin Paperback – February 11, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0195117554 ISBN-10: 0195117557

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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Before we can even address the origin of life, there looms the question of what life is anyway. In Biogenesis, Lahav quotes definitions of life culled from the scientific literature from 1855 to 1997. We see the special concerns of each, from Spenser's emphasis on evolution, to Schrodinger's on the law of physics, to Kauffman's on complexity theory. In pursuit of answers, scientists are using every technique from laboratory experiments to deep sea exploration to computer simulations. The most complete account of every approach and each important concept, theory, and experiment is found in this book. It is an invaluable resource for all serious students of origin-of-life research. Although much of this book is very technical, it is written in a highly accessible style. It is an outstanding contribution to the field." - Lucy Horwitz, Boston Book Review, March 2000


About the Author

Noam Lahav Emeritus Professor of Origin of life and Soil Science Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 11, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195117557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195117554
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,953,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jill Malter on December 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent and thorough book about the origin of life. It begins with some historical material on the subject. Then there's a some characteristics of the consitituents of cells. Lahav points out that one property of life is that all its fundamental constituents are non-living.

After that, there is a brief but important discussion of general thermodynamic considerations, including free energy, entropy, information content of DNA, and autocatalysis. From there, we go to a chapter on biochemical molecules and processes. And we see Martynas Ycas' definition of a biochemical system ("a system of catalysts regulating the transformation of other compounds so as to make available the system energy and matter for its further increase and maintenance"). In addition, there's a chapter on biological life, with four pages just to compile various definitions of life.

Now we're ready to take on the main problem. The basic assumptions are that the physical laws are applicable and that evolution takes place at the molecular level. The strategies include cosmogeochemical (characterizing the environments in which the first living entities formed), biological (looking for the oldest actual life forms), and biogeochemical (looking at the synthesis of biopolymers).

Lahav supplies some clues from biology about the origin of life, including chirality, multiplicity of steps to generate life, temperature at which life originated, common origin for RNA, the citric acid cycle, and "evolutionary clocks." Then we get into some specific lines of attack. The first is that ribose has a stability problem and adenine hydrolyzes. That gets us to look at a PNA (peptide nucleic acid) world and template-directed reactions.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Jackson on December 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Unlike the previous reviewer, I found the copious annotation of the text with references to be the salient (and most valuable) feature of this book. Indeed, the author does *not* make unsupported statements -- he supports them with actual references from the literature!
I do admit being sidetracked a few times by actually going to get some of these items from the library, but they were the things *I* was interested in, and the book would not have been well served by transformation into the weighty tome that inclusion of all these details would have made it.
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Format: Paperback
I checked this out from the library. I've been reading several books on origin of life.

This book was easy for me to read, despite the technically advance subject matter. The writing style is straightforward and easy to follow.

The book is so well referenced. The author knows the field inside and out. This is professionally and clearly written. I liked the short sections with summary titles.

I'm not quite sure why I decided not to give the book a five. I did enjoy reading it, and may read again sometime.

Due to the rather technical subject matter, I'm not sure this would be very easy to read for the general public.
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15 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Rick Pierson on December 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
The beginning of the book deals with the historical views on the origin of life (such as the views of Greek philosophers, the debate over spontaneous generation, etc.). This section is very good, but it is probably not what a person would buy the book for. Once he starts discussing current origin-of-life studies, much of the work consists of unsupported statements (the statements are not supported in the book itself, but by other works, which the author provides pointers to. The reader must buy or gain access to the other works in order to get the details). Also, the index is very poor - if you read the book and find something interesting, mark it then and there - don't rely on ever being able to find it again. Still, there is up-to-date information that is missing from many other books on the subject.
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