- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Joseph Henry Press (September 9, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 030910310X
- ISBN-13: 978-0309103107
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 32 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,957,263 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origin
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From Publishers Weekly
What is the meaning of life? Hazen (co-author, Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy) can't answer that, but he may be able to shed light on how life started. We're all familiar with the "primordial soup" theory: organic building blocks floating around in Earth's ocean four billion years ago combined to form the first primitive organisms. Hazen explains the many rival theories vying for public attention. The discovery of life near hydrothermal vents deep in the ocean have led some scientists to propose that life started there, while recent studies of microbes living in rock miles below Earth's surface point to even more radical genesis stories. The origin of life is a hotly contested scientific field, of which Hazen provides a balanced view, airing all the controversies, and only slightly favoring his own pet theory. He spends just as much time on the tools of the trade: the study of molecular fossils and even how we might search for life on other planets. His writing is clear and entertaining, giving a delightful look into his unpredictable experimental work without shying away from the complexity of the science. (Sept. 23)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"...provides the best overview of the 'origin of life' field for the non-specialist reader that I have encountered. I think that even those who are familiar with most of its contents will enjoy the presentation." - Nature "For a better view of how science really works, turn to this wonderfully engaging account of modern research into the dawn of biology...The book climaxes with a stunningly clever new hypothesis of how the first RNA molecules could have arisen spontaneously. Fascinating, Captain." - The Guardian "This is the best origins-of-life account that I have seen, for both professionals and philosophers. Others who are interested but uninformed will find the story stretches their minds - and rewards the effort." - BBC Focus"
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Life on Earth has the same genetic code, chemistry, handiness of molecules, amino acids and method of fabricating protein. This means that all life on this planet must have a common ancestor. But this doesn’t mean that it was the only Genesis on Earth. Maybe life emergence from life and several stages of life was required to get the final product as life is today or it was the only one that could survive the conditions.
There are so many questions about Origin of Life that begs for answers. Keep up the work, so you can prevent Intelligent Design from building a nest and roosting on this Origin of Life issue.
"Gen-e-sis" is a good source for the who, what, when, where, why and how of origin science. It is an up to date compendium of what is known about modern microscopic life and the systems that it uses. More importantly for the student interested in the topic, he provides a very good description of the equipment, techniques, and personal characteristics of the researchers doing this type of work. The book would be a very good addition to a high school library, not only in its capacity as a reference on origin of life research, but for the information on the occupation of bioscience researcher.
The author approaches his topic by examining the issues of how life arose from non-life and which of several issues was solved first: cellular segregation of "outside" from "inside," metabolism, or replication. These points are not necessarily clear to most of us. We are ourselves and live with other organisms of great complexity, not only with respect to internal organization but with respect to inter-species organization in the natural ecology of our environment. In short life on the planet has become so elaborate that it almost seems impossible that it could ever have been simpler even at the level of single cells.
Dr. Hazen explores the current research into the ubiquity of biomolecules, how they might arise spontaneously, how they survive under different conditions, and how they might congregate into larger molecules. I found especially interesting the discussion of the spontaneous self-aggregation of lipid membranes from molecules with hydrophilic and hydrophobic ends. Certainly the formation of double layers of these molecules into more cellular like membranes in laboratory settings was amazing.
He also discusses the RNA and DNA `worlds' and the possibility that protein or other catalytic molecules might have performed the function of replicators and metabolizers until the more complex systems used by modern life arose to take over the functions. He discusses the now rather old notion of a clay world, proposed originally by Cairns-Smith. Here clays of various types are believed to have served as templates for the natural aggregation of organic molecules which later became independent of their clay "parents" by replicating themselves. This theory still has an undeniable fascination. The possibility that rock pores might have served as the original cell "membranes" is also intriguing along this line.
With a passing reference to the work of the Santa Fe Institute, particularly the research of Kaufmann, and of Per Bak into self organizing criticality and self emerging properties, Hazen notes that critical quantities of materials needed for life to get going may have led almost spontaneously to the origin of life. In fact it is suggested that it might do so where ever these conditions arose in the universe.
Probably one of the best features of the book is the discussion of the problems that arise when carrying theory into research. A great theory may produce disappointing research results, may not be practicable at all, or may illuminate problems with the theory. A case in point is the issues arising with the self organizing membranes mentioned above. Here it was discovered that while membranes could arise quite simply, they didn't allow anything to pass into or out of the interior. Living cells allow a flow of materials across the membrane, usually with a gradient of some kind, prevent materials from entering or leaving by virtue of pore verses particle size, or actively transport materials into or out of the cell's interior. A cell that can't do this would either poison itself or starve to death. Such research provides useful negative information to take back to the drawing board.
An excellent overview of origin science, and a good book to read with Ward's on extraterrestrial life.
Most recent customer reviews
Hazen overviews the various possible scenarios ( featuring geothermals, hydrothermals, clays, crystals,...Read more