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Wetware: A Computer in Every Living Cell 0th Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
There is something breathtaking in Bray's thesis, which is stated in such lucid and straightforward language that the general reader will wonder why cellular biology ever seemed like a difficult or alien subject.
Computational biology gives one the sense that we are at the threshold of yet another of civilization's "Spinoza moments" where the entire framework for thinking about life is dramatically, and irrevocably restructured.
Rather than being sourced in unfathomable complexity, life in this model is founded on processes of utmost simplicity, yet have evolved marvellously dense control networks within the structure of those simple rules.
Bray's Wetware is essential reading for the non specialist who wants to know where one of the most significant trends in science and phiolsophy are headed.
His insight that "it is much more difficult to infer internal structure from the observation of behavior than to create the structure that gives the behavior in the first place" is a powerful one, and should give pause to anyone who subscribes to the notion of "intelligent design", or who thinks that cellular activities are "irreducibly complex". Humans can be easily fooled into believing that human-like attributes can only be attributed to human-like intelligence.. But the notion that a cell is so complex that it must have been designed by a supernatural agent is similar to the response one might imagine if a caveman was confronted by a simple robot. In both cases the object seems beyond comprehension; in both cases the object can actually be described by simple physical laws, circuits and switches.Read more ›
Of course the title of this book doesn't imply a computer like we think of ... more the ability to perform computations and make decisions. To be honest I hadn't really thought about this stuff in this depth before, but as it says on the cover:
"How does a single-cell creature, such as an amoeba, lead such a sophisticated life? How does it hunt living prey, respond to lights, sounds, and smells, and display complex sequences of movements without the benefit of a nervous system?"
Having read this book I can just about understand how an amoeba can move around and hunt its prey etc ... and I can also understand how groups of similar cells can perform "quorum sensing" (detect their relative concentration - i.e how many of them are there in a given area) ... remembering that we're talking about single cells here...
But to go from there to the current peak of human evolution (that would be me ... and you I suppose ... but let's focus on me :-)
... well, all I can say is that "the mind boggles" ...
I'm still trying to wrap my brain around everything that I learned.
This is a fantastic book - highly recommended!!!
Just to get one critique out of the way, Bray is largely correct when he states that the book does not suggest that single cell organisms have consciousness. Nevertheless, some language still remains that could be rephrased to remove vestiges of those thoughts. The last page also intimates that there could be a central organizing "brain" in an amoeba, which I think is neither required not indicated by the rest of the book.
Where this book excels is it's accessible description of cell processes from a computing model perspective. This works very well and the metaphor is extended to genetic networks and switches, and neural networks. He also includes a bried discussion of robotics, which are constructed with computer systems.
Where this book falls short is that while the metaphor of computation can be used in a host of processes, it is not formalized to show that computation is being done by the cell and organ systems, and not something else that looks like computation.
This might seem like a semantic quibble, but it is important, because otherwise this book just follows in the long tradition of describing living systems in the technology of the day, e.g. clockwork machines in the C18th.
Overall this book is well written, particularly the chapters on cell biology and is well worth reading by the general reader.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is an absolutely fantastic book that presents a view of the cell quite different from how we are normally taught. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Edmund Paley
I read this a long time ago and never reviewed it. It was a great book. I read it alongside The Machinery of Life by David Goodsell and Life's Ratchet by Peter Hoffmann, so those... Read morePublished 18 months ago by The Professor
Of course, one should not expect a novel nor the pleasure of reading a novel from a book of this kind. Read morePublished 18 months ago by William Reich
Excellent and a good companion to
Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos
which I also recommend highly.
“Wetware” by Dennis Bray is a very readable account of recent research in cell biology, focusing on the mechanisms that are used inside cells to interact with and adapt to their... Read morePublished on January 27, 2014 by Mark B. Friedman
This is one of the most well written books by a premiere scientist of his field.
If the biomechanical operations on the cellular scale garnered the interest on par with... Read more
Pure genius . Very readable especially for the novice.logically and clearly presented with insight and understanding. Read morePublished on November 6, 2013 by ray lev
level of detail is just right for someone who's not a biologist but who has a college-level intro to science in their backgroundPublished on December 20, 2012 by Daniel