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In the Beat of a Heart: Life, Energy, and the Unity of Nature

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0309096812
ISBN-10: 0309096812
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John Whitfield
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Joseph Henry Press (September 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0309096812
  • ISBN-13: 978-0309096812
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #582,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Dr. Richard G. Petty on March 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The central question of this fascinating book is the precise role of energy in the living world.

Biology is in an interesting state of flux, with some visionary scientists believing that all biological processes are explainable by the laws of physics and mathematics. Meanwhile another group believes that quantum mechanics provides the best explanation for life process and a minority who think that we need to look elsewhere for an explanation of biological organization and function. In the middle is a very large group of teachers are researchers who are unfamiliar with the debates that are raging at scientific conferences and in the scholarly journals.

This is far from being an idle discussion: it has enormous implications for our understanding not only of biology, but also of health and disease. Wherever your sympathies lie in this ongoing debate, it is useful and important to know the current state of play in each of these different camps.

This book is an extremely well written and enthralling account of scientific discovery, that focuses on the efforts of a determined band of investigators who believe that they can - simply by using the currently known laws of physics and mathematics - build a unified theory of how living organisms function.

The idea that energy might be a unifying concept is not new. One of the first to discuss it was D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson who published a classic book on the topic - On Growth and Form - in 1917. In that book Thompson explored the effects of body size on life. Since larger animals need to expend more energy to do their day-to-day jobs, he began the study of metabolic rate and the way in which it sets the tempo for life processes. If metabolism slows, then so do all the processes in cells and organs.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found In the Beat of a Heart: Life, Energy, and the Unity of Nature (by John Whitfield) an intriguing book, which offered some great insights on how complex system thinking might be able to help in discovering some of the secrets of life through biological systems prcess. The book spends a fair amount of time describing the relationships between body metabolism, mass, and lifespan. It covers he exciting work by Geoffrey West from the Santa Fe Institute and his colleagues on the use of complex systems methodology and the minimization of energy principle to derive some broadly general mathematical relationships between metabolism, mass, temperature, and lifespan for a broad range of animal species.
I recommend the book for the curious reader, who is interested in learning a little more about some of the mysteries of biology and the systems perspective that some scientist have taken to help uncover them.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is wonderful new application of thermodynamics to biology. And biology finaly start to yield to Scientific enquiry, by which author implies 'written in mathematics'. We now know how all the living things are behaving. This book thus might make a trilogy of life science books; "Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics" on the behaviour of other people, by Eric D. Beinhocker and "I am a strange loop" by Doug Hofstadter, on the behaviour of myself(to be released soon).
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