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The Machinery of Life [Hardcover]

David S. Goodsell
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 13, 2010 0387849246 978-0387849249 2nd ed. 2009
Imagine that we had some way to look directly at the molecules in a living organism. An x-ray microscope would do the trick, or since we’re dreaming, perhaps an Asimov-style nanosubmarine (unfortunately, neither is currently feasible). Think of the wonders we could witness firsthand: antibodies atta- ing a virus, electrical signals racing down nerve fibers, proteins building new strands of DNA. Many of the questions puzzling the current cadre of sci- tists would be answered at a glance. But the nanoscale world of molecules is separated from our everyday world of experience by a daunting million-fold difference in size, so the world of molecules is completely invisible. I created the illustrations in this book to help bridge this gulf and allow us to see the molecular structure of cells, if not directly, then in an artistic rendition. I have included two types of illustrations with this goal in mind: watercolor paintings which magnify a small portion of a living cell by one million times, showing the arrangement of molecules inside, and comput- generated pictures, which show the atomic details of individual molecules. In this second edition of The Machinery of Life, these illustrations are presented in full color, and they incorporate many of the exciting scientific advances of the 15 years since the first edition.

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The Machinery of Life + Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos + What is Life?: How Chemistry Becomes Biology
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Editorial Reviews


From the reviews of the second edition:

"The Machinery of Life is a journey into the sub-microscopic world of molecular machines. Readers are introduced to the types of molecules within the cell, including proteins, nucleic acids, lipids and polysaccharides. … The Machinery of Life is a pictorial overview of the molecules that orchestrate the processes of life. … The book provides a fascinating introduction to biochemistry and molecular biology for the non-specialists … . It is written in clear, jargon-free text that is accessible to the lay reader." (Medical News Today, May, 2009)

"This book is amazing. … this second edition is a major update. And what it conveys is the sheer unbelievable intricacy – and realness – of every cell in your body. David Goodsell … accomplishes this via amazing full-color illustrations, paintings based on computer animations created from microscope images. … It’s slim, readable and engaging, a nonfiction book that calls to you from the nightstand table. If you are even a little curious about how cells work, get your hands on The Machinery of Life." (Lisa Parsons, The Hippo, July, 2009)

"The Machinery of Life, which is a new edition of Goodsell’s 1993 book of the same name. … the author’s full-color illustrations are astonishing, forcing the reader to dwell for minutes on every picture. They are based on data from scientific papers, electron microscopy and information about molecular structures that were obtained by X-ray crystallography. … He does a good job. … Goodsell’s technique is remarkable. He uses a combination of hand-drawing and computer graphics illustration." (Weanée Kimblewood, Lab Times, Issue 5, September, 2009)

"Anyone who finds biology, especially modern biology at the molecular level, quite baffling and bristling with incomprehensible jargon – this could be the book for you! … David Goodsell is clearly a master of communication, conveying complex biological processes with great clarity. … An excellent gift, then, for anyone interested in learning about biology in an enjoyable way. A book bursting with colour and genuinely difficult to put down … ." (Michael Smith, Chemistry World, December, 2009)

“In science, true understanding comes with the ability to visualize the system. For students of cell and molecular biology, this visualization often comes in the form of diagrams simplified in the name of clarity. … Using coordinates taken from the RCSB Protein Data Bank, Goodsell’s wonderfully drawn illustrations are true to the scale and shape of the real molecules. … This work will be enjoyed by all who are interested in the molecular processes … from new students to experienced scientists. Summing Up: Highly recommended.” (D. Carroll, Choice, Vol. 47 (4), December, 2009) “This well-written, beautifully illustrated volume serves as an introduction to the molecules that compose cells and viruses. The book is written at a very accessible level and is appropriate for nonspecialists and students beginning their study in biology. … experienced biologists will appreciate the lucid treatment of complex concepts, particularly the idea of molecular crowding in cells. … In summary, the easy-to-read narrative and beautiful illustrations of The Machinery of Life make this volume worthwhile to recommend to both nonspecialists as well as practicing biologists.” (A. James Link, The Quarterly Review of Biology, Vol. 85 (1), March, 2010)

About the Author

Dr. David S. Goodsell is Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology at The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA. His illustrations have become well known and now appear in many publications as the primary demonstration of the crowded nature of cells. He has also provided expertise and illustrations to many science museums, most recently acting as a "thinking partner” for a new multi-site nanotechnology initiative headed in part by the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Copernicus; 2nd ed. 2009 edition (May 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0387849246
  • ISBN-13: 978-0387849249
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Biology Book ever May 22, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Machinery of Life is the best book on molecular biology I have ever read. If you have ever looked into a microscope and saw a blob an wanted to see further into that blob this is the book for you. Microscopes can only go so far. This book goes all the way down to the atom then back up to the small molecule then big molecule, then macro molecule, then even a near atomic understanding of a cell. The tone is clear and the grand architecture of the cell's machinery is masterfully explained as well as illustrated. I bought two copies. One for me and one to give to friends. This is a great book to give to your parents or grandparents who want to know what you do at work if your work in molecular/cellular biology or even immunology.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Student reviews from Wake Forest Freshman Seminar October 14, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
David Goodsell's Machinery of Life, is by far the best introduction to molecular Biology that I have ever come across. This book approaches the daunting and at times intimidating subject of molecular biology with simplicity and eloquence. Life inside a cell is so small and hectic that most of the time it is near impossible to fully comprehend what is occurring, but Goodsell's use of images make cellular life much easier to understand. As reviewers have mentioned above the illustrations in this book are what makes it a truly magical read. The illustrations are so powerful and engaging that they help the reader take knowledge of cell and transform it into a true overall understanding of the happenings within a cell. Whether it be simple pictures of protein folding, or a more involved look at the way in which DNA winds itself within the cell, it is clear that after seeing the pictures ones understanding is significantly enhanced. In addition, Goodsell uses very simple writing in his descriptions, and provides many examples. Because of this he does a truly great job in not losing the reader in a topic which can become very dense and difficult to grasp. In all, this book is really great, if you want to know about molecular biology or just know more about it this book is for you.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
The Machinery of Life (2nd Edition) is an excellent introduction to molecular biology. The book uses concise text and beautiful illustrations to reveal the mechanisms of the molecular machines in every life, making you wonder at the achievements of these invisible molecules.

The unique features of this book are the watercolor paintings that display the cellular interiors with all the molecular machines presented with scientific rigor. These paintings can be seen as the "snapshots" of the cell at high magnification (1,000,000X). The author carefully chose the composition so that the desired molecular machines and the relationship between them are clearly revealed. Some paintings are more than snapshots: they are smartly designed to show certain processes occurring in the cell, such as the death of a cell and the life cycle of a virus. These paintings can be thought as movie frames that are seamlessly fused together.

Besides these paintings, space-filling computer renderings are used to illustrate the detailed structures and functions of the molecular machines. Two kind of styles are used. One is the unique style used by the author for the Molecule of the Month series at Protein Data Bank (PDB). Molecules rendered with this style has a hand-drawing appearance, and blend seamless with the watercolor paintings. The other style is commonly used by scientists to illustrate the atomic structures and interactions of small molecules. Personally I think these renderings are too computer-like, and do not fit in very well with other illustrations. But this is a very minor complaint.

Dr. Goodsell is a master of using color to present scientific images.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful, readable, and elegant! May 13, 2011
I will start with the punch line: this is a spectacular book! I stumbled across it as I was looking for a basic (read: useful, but not overwhelming) introduction to cells and their biology/biochemistry. I was not disappointed. Goodsell has managed to both convey the elegance and the complexity with which cells operate, and do so in a way that leaves one craving more information. The strength of this book is easily its readability (clear language and meaningful pictures).

All of the chapters are interesting and enjoyable, but three of them stood out to me in particular. Chapters 6, 7, and 8 (The Human Body, Life and Death, and Viruses, respectively) were my favorites. I now have a much richer appreciation for the intricate dance those cells perform to cause that motion. I also understand better the amazing repair and defense mechanisms my body employs, as well as the need for that nimble defense (bacteria and viruses are crafty organisms!). And seeing muscle cells, viruses, and repair proteins "in action" is sure to leave a lasting impression.

My only complaint is that the letter designations in most of the pictures are too small and do not stand out. I had a bit of trouble finding several of them in some of the busier pictures. I am sure that if I had a more significant background in biology, I would have had an easier time recognizing pieces called out in the figure captions, but the extra time spent searching the beautiful pictures was by no means wasted!

(this review is for the corrected, second edition - the one from 2010)
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Bueno.
Muy didactico y concreto,ideal para los primeros años de biologia.
Published 12 days ago by Julio Riveron
5.0 out of 5 stars The best cellular biology book ever
I have two version of this. An older softcover and the electronic version. The book shows how the cell is made from it's constituent parts, the molecules, and it shows how the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Calvin Tolman
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look at life on a small scale
You don't have to be a microbiology major to enjoy this fascinating look at the inner life of cells. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Laura
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightfull
This book does an excellent job of explaining how life works at the molecular level. I'm an "armchair" scientist at best, but found this book to be engaging and... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Shannon
5.0 out of 5 stars do read heady dude
wonderfull wonderfulll just wonderfull if you have a head for genetics everything easily understood wow! do buy if you really want to know all you need to know and more
Published 3 months ago by B. Bagnall
4.0 out of 5 stars The Machinery of Life
Great book written by David S. Goodsell, one of the scientists at the San Diego Scripps Institute. The book explains in layman's terms many interesting aspects of biology and... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Richard Augelli
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb
This book should be part of everyone's basic education. It helped me visualise these things like nothing before. Please tell me when the animated version is out on DVD.
Published 4 months ago by Richard Anthony Cowper
5.0 out of 5 stars The original book
This is the original book in biology. I can't image how to draw machines in our cells specifically. It was amazing. I will keep.
Published 5 months ago by Chaeyeon S.
5.0 out of 5 stars required Bio book
This book should be required reading for any and all students interested in biology. Its a great way to move from theoretical text book, to how things actually work in a cell.
Published 5 months ago by Michael D Harwich Jr
4.0 out of 5 stars Simple and precise
Very informative read. Shows the complexity of our very existence. Spelled out in a easy to understand format. I recommend this to both the lay public and professional alike
Published 6 months ago by chris moreno
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