- Paperback: 332 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Reissue edition (August 26, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521528011
- ISBN-13: 978-0521528016
- Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.7 x 9.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,681,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Emergence of Life: From Chemical Origins to Synthetic Biology Reissue Edition
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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
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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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.
One criticism I had of the book is that it is almost too synthetic in perspective. At many times I got the sense that the argument reduced to what is easier in the lab is a better explanation for the origin of life. Personally, I am not all that interested in these early attempts to create proto-life in the laboratory, and am not convinced that they can tell us all that much concerning the enormous parameter space that must have been available during the Earth's history. Basically, I don't feel that I learned all that much about the origin of life, rather than that it is quite difficult and enormously contentious.
A second minor criticism I have of this book is that it doesn't really do a great job in incorporating fields like physics and information theory. To give just one example, Luisi references Schrodinger's famous book 'What is Life?' but doesn't really talk about the negentropy ('free energy') view of life. This is too bad, as it would have provided a natural bridge between the chemistry and the higher level concepts of autopoeisis. In fact, I will note that neuroscientist Karl Friston has been leading a revival of sorts of Schrodinger 'free energy' view, and it has some pretty clear similarities to the autopoeisis account. This book doesn't get into the physics quite enough for my tastes - for example, I found the chapter on emergence a little weak. However, there is no doubting that Luisi's speciality, synthetic biology, is extensively covered.