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First Life: Discovering the Connections between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began First Edition Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520258327
ISBN-10: 0520258320
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An authoritative voice weighs in on a sprawling debate that's been raging in the scientific community for many decades, and lays out a succinct and persuasive hypothesis for the origin of life on Earth."--"The Scientist"

"Insightfully written"--"Times Higher Education"

"Engaging. . . . [Deamer] gives us an enriched sense of how the universe works."--Elof Axel Carlson"The Quarterly Review Of Bio" (09/01/2012)

"Eloquent. . . . A preeminent leader in the field tells his personal story of discovery in a unique and absorbing way."--Chandra Wickramasinghe, University of Buckingham"Bioscience" (02/07/2013)

"Thought-provoking. . . . A journey of discovery into the nature of life itself."--George M. Eberhart"C&Rl News" (06/17/2011)

Engaging. . . . [Deamer] gives us an enriched sense of how the universe works. --Elof Axel Carlson"The Quarterly Review Of Bio" (09/01/2012)"

Eloquent. . . . A preeminent leader in the field tells his personal story of discovery in a unique and absorbing way. --Chandra Wickramasinghe, University of Buckingham"Bioscience" (02/07/2013)"

Thought-provoking. . . . A journey of discovery into the nature of life itself. --George M. Eberhart"C&Rl News" (06/17/2011)"

From the Inside Flap

"The origin of life may have happened an inconceivably long time ago, but scientists like David Deamer are making major advances in understanding how the first microbes began to seethe on our planet, ultimately giving rise to all species alive today. In First Life, Deamer offers a delightful synthesis of research into life's dawn with his own vision for how it came to be."—Carl Zimmer, author of The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution

"No living scientist has had a greater impact on our understanding of life’s origins than Dave Deamer. In First Life, his remarkably engaging, constantly lucid, and delightfully personal narrative, Deamer takes us behind the scenes of origins research as no one else could. What a story!”—Robert M. Hazen, Senior Staff Scientist, Carnegie Institution, and author of Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins

"David Deamer has written a truly wonderful book. A preeminent scientist in the origin of life field, he has produced a synoptic, wise, and warmly human discussion. Anyone interested in how we came to exist in our universe had best read this book.”—Stuart Kauffman, author of At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity and Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition edition (June 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520258320
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520258327
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.9 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,626,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
*****
"The history of science suggests that a continuous, focused effort to try to understand a problem, ... We will never know exactly how life began on early Earth, but we will know life can begin on a suitable planetary surface, because we will watch life emerge when just the right set of conditions come together." -- David Deamer

Scientists who study the origin of life strive to discover the chemical reactants and physical conditions that ignited the first forms of life on planet earth. One question they wrestle with peculiarly is how complex molecules such as amino acids, proteins, lipids, and DNA originated. All of these molecules are carbon based and are quite complex. Certainly, there was a ready supply of carbon on early Earth in the form of carbon dioxide and methane, but the synthesis process, from simple to complex, is still under debate. A popular origin-of-life proposition is that complex biological compounds assembled by chance, out of an organic broth, on the early Earth's surface. This proto bio-synthesis culminated in one of these bio-molecules being able to produce replicas of itself. The first laboratory tests conducted in response to this question was that known as the Miller-Urey experiment, simulated early Earth's atmospheric conditions and resulted in a spontaneous formation of organic compounds including amino acids. This evidence that complex organic molecules could have resulted from basic chemical reactants, cannot account for all complex amino molecules necessary for life, not even all 20 basic amino acids for living organisms. Despite hard efforts, scientists failed to create all the molecules needed for life in laboratory simulations of early Earth conditions.
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Science will eventually unlock the secrets to the origin of life here on Earth and the universe as a whole. For those of us who wish to follow the progress toward the revelation of those secrets, David Deamer in his book, First Life, has provided a crucial and essential outline, a road map if you will, for understanding the extreme complexity of the problem of how life could spontaneously arise and possible routes to that event.

Research into the origin of life on the early Earth is very much like analyzing the origin of an electromechanical mid-twentieth century clock. It is not enough to disassemble the mechanism determining the structure and function of each part. One must then figure out what kind of process was involved in designing and wiring the motor, calculating and fashioning the gears, molding the curved glass front, etc. As if that was not enough, one then must figure out how the metals for motor and gears were mined, smelted and forged, how the glass was created and shaped and most importantly how each part found itself in the same place at the same time for proper assembly. Our quest is further complicated by the fact the people, blueprints, instructions, equipment and factories involved are either gone or readapted to new processes. Truly this is a case for a Sherlock Holmes on steroids.

Much of what Deamer covers is deep, very deep. Yet he amplifies the discussion with repetition and review and writes in such a way as to allow the reader to jump from mountain peak to mountain peak with little loss to the overall meaning of the subject under discussion rather the forcing one to slog through the jungles below.

Deamer finds himself on the front lines of the quest for the origin of life and is pursuing his own very valuable line of investigation.
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Great job listing the current questions, exploring known and possible answers to them and tracing promising research paths.

It is always positive when you finish a book with more questions than you had before. Life is complex even to define it, let alone to create hypotheses about how first molecular systems started interacting, what were their constituents and neighboring environment attributes, how they acquired the ability to compete for environment resources and lead us all living creatures into this amazing journey we call evolution.

Another bonus: although the book's central theme is linked to strong religious beliefs for significant part of human societies, the author kept the narrative as far as possible from religion.

5 stars for Deamer and the rest of the crew.
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An engagingly written book about the theories of how life originated on Earth and the scientific efforts to unravel this incredible mystery. Although at times, it can be a bit technical for the layperson, it's still a very interesting read. You never know when the next page will hit you with an "I didn't know that!" revelation.
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Like the best scientists, David Deamer uses what we know to open the doors to what we don't know and should want to know. Of course, most of us don't know what he presents in this book about how molecules void of life can form the precursor forms of life and the simplest life forms under conditions as different as the surface of Mars, the deep ocean vents, and glacial ice.
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**I read Andreas Wagner's Arrival, John Tyler Bonner's Randomness in Evolution, and David Deamer's First Life: Discovering the Connections between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began subsequently, so my review is meant to be read relative to the other two as all three overlap in subject matter. (This paragraph appears in all three reviews). I am reading these books after reading several on cosmology.* I wanted to move beyond what cosmologists say (with disagreement) about the formation of the universe to see how it could be compatible with what chemists and biologists say about the beginning of life. Alan Lightman writes in the Accidental Universe that "Science can never know how universe was created," and I find that to be echoed in these books -- science can never know or prove how exactly life began (Deamer states this outright). Exactly what chemicals were available on earth to mix in what quantities to randomly create a reaction between molecules that led bonds to form, information to be transmitted, and growth to begin? All of the hypotheses presented in the books require certain laws of physics and nature to hold but I have not found any who attempts to explain how those laws arose in the first place. Why are these laws what they are? Call this the Paul Davies critique. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/24/opinion/24davies.html?_r=0
Deamer acknowledges that it's possible a creator put those laws into existence, but the other two avoid the subject. None of the three seem to recognize that chance is not a causal force, so time + chance cannot explain anything.
Where did light come from and how did it contain information? How did cells know that it contained information and figure out a way to receive and decode it? How do "regulator cells" operate according to these laws?
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