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The Emergence of Life: From Chemical Origins to Synthetic Biology 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0521821179
ISBN-10: 0521821177
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Review of the hardback: 'Charting the successful development of life is certainly a fascinating challenge and one which Luisi addresses head on in this book from both a scientific and philosophical standpoint. ... This comprehensive volume will particularly suit those students and academics who wish to delve further into early natural history, either out of an innate curiosity or a more professional approach to unravel one of the true mysteries of nature.' Chemistry & Industry

Review of the hardback: 'This work is a fresh and exciting new look at a now long-established field. Because it is so fascinating to read, it is a work that I feel deserves to be in every library of science.' Chemistry World

Review of the hardback: '... the reviewer recommends this book for specialists in Earth and life sciences.' Zentralblatt für Geologie und Paläontologie

Book Description

Uniquely combining biology and philosophy, this book offers a systematic course in the emergence of life from inanimate matter through to cellular life. With review questions included, this book will appeal to graduate students, academics and researchers in the field of the origin of life and other related areas.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (July 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521821177
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521821179
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.8 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,631,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Rob on March 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Emergence of Life by Pier Luigi Luisi is a thoughtful book. It is not a book where to find easy answers on how the life appeared on Earth. Rather, on the contrary. The author scholastic and erudition is impressive on subjects from fundamental physics and chemistry up to polictics and language. Luisi included topics as difficult to define as self-organization and emergence, not only in the biological and biochemical context, but also in social behaviour and economics, for example. The text is crystal-clear, based mostly on arguments from others, but also by the author's personal thinkings based on a life long scientific carreer (over 300 scientific publications), first at the ETH-Zurich (Switzerland) then at Rome 3 (Italy). The book is strongly based on scientific support and thoroughly referenced (over 500 scientific references, including papers of scientific journals and books), and includes an excellent subject index. Graphs and figures are of good support to understand the text. I really recommend it for readers interested on the non-trivial hypotheses of life arousal on Earth. A point (?): Luisi does not include any religious discussion in his book. I was very pleased with his well balanced way of thinking.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By California Star on January 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
How could life emerge from unanimate matter? Despite the importance of this question and its broad public interest, the field of research in origin-of-life is relatively undermined in the scientific community. This field doesn't offer a promising carrier for a young scientist, mainly because of its slow development and the fact that it doesn't benefit from recent technical progress, as is the case with other fields,
Therefore, as a result of its small scientific community, contrasted by its large public issue and demand, many books have been published on this topic, a wide range of which present chapters written by the same authors. The results is a great redundancy of information as well as scientific views. If you've read half a dozen books on the origin-of-life and you're looking for something fresher, more vibrant, which presents a new outlook on the subject, then stop looking, this is the book for you!

Pier Luigi Luisi is a chemist who has devoted his scientific carrier to this important question in modern biology. As author of over 400 peer-reviewed publications, he has covered a great deal of various approaches to the origin of life, as well as a multitude of other books on fields directly related to the subject, such as "Giant Vesicles" and "Self-Production of Supramolecular Structures" (also found in Amazon).

Luisi's "The Emergence of Life" is a systematic overview of the field, as seen from an insider.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By whiteelephant on July 6, 2012
Format: Paperback
In "The Emergence of Life", Pier Luigi Luisi gives an overview of synthetic biology, a field in which he has some 40+ years experience. In a sense this almost reads like a long review article, although Luisi's personal preferences and philosophy are presented most prominently. Luisi defines life on the basis of 'autopoeisis': "a system can be said to be living if it is able to transform external energy into an internal process of self-maintenance and production of its own components." Autopoeisis was a view of life first put forth by Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela in the 1970s. A main point of Luisi's account is that this view was regrettably ignored in favor of nucleic acid reductionism. Luisi is optimistic, however, that the current trend towards systems biology is reviving many of the views of the Chilean school. It is worth noting that Varela was heavily involved at the interface of biology and Buddhism, and it appears as though Luisi has been as well - which might be one reason why some biologists are reluctant to embrace the word 'autopoiesis', even if they agree with the fundamental tenets.

Given this perspective, the book is quite critical of reductionist RNA-world accounts of the origin of life. While self-replicating RNA molecules might sound elegant, as Luisi puts it "in fact, we simply do not know how to make long polypeptides by prebiotic means". Luisi is more favorable towards 'compartmentalist' studies of synthetic biology that focus on micelles, liposomes, and vesicles in an attempt to create a 'minimal cell'. Much of the book is an overview of the research that has been done in this regard. It is full of references, and if you are not particularly keen on learning such details you might find it somewhat dry.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Scholastic Reader on July 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Pier Luisi has done an excellent job in bringing in many relevant viewpoints, methods of approach, and the current standing of Origins of Life research. This book is aimed towards Biochemists, Physical Chemists, and Molecular Biologists, etc. but there are sections where a lay reader will understand easily too.

We have come along quite a bit since the Urey-Miller experiment and Oparin and now we currently face a complicated and sophisticated understanding of how hard it is for scientists (such as Biochemists and other Chemists) to synthesize fundamental life. This work brings the reader up to date with detailed and technical information from research papers that have been formerly published from all over the world. The Human Genome project and wider studies in Genomics, the rise of Proteomics and Epigentics, along with the ENCODE project which showed that at least 80% of our genome has a function (thus debunking junk DNA claims) have all added to the real sophistication found in living organisms, by orders of magnitude.

As such, life emerging is definitely no simple matter (life emerged once on Earth - no microfossils of the earliest life forms from 4 billion years ago have ever been found with alternate biochemistries such as non-DNA genetic material, non-carbon based materials). The fact that earth is 35% Iron, 30% Oxygen, 15% Silicon, 10% Magnesium, and 10% all other 80+ elements (including Carbon) adds to the sophistication since Silicon (which has similar properties to Carbon) is way more abundant than Carbon, yet Carbon is what living matter is made from. On top of this, nature seems to posit many biochemical impedance that are pretty important to take into consideration.
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