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Information Theory and Molecular Biology

3.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521350051
ISBN-10: 0521350050
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Editorial Reviews


."..written in a very lucid style. The roles of physics, chemistry and mathematics in biology are discussed again and again and the similarity between theoretical physics and theoretical molecular biology is always brought out. It is emphasised that molecular biology applications of information and coding theories should either explain the known experimental data or should suggest further experiments for verification of theoretical results obtained." J.N. Kapur, Mathematical Reviews

Book Description

Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life presents a timely introduction to the use of information theory and coding theory in molecular biology. The genetical information system, because it is linear and digital, resembles the algorithmic language of computers. George Gamow pointed out that the application of Shannon's information theory breaks genetics and molecular biology out of the descriptive mode into the quantitative mode and Dr Yockey develops this theme, discussing how information theory and coding theory can be applied to molecular biology. He discusses how these tools for measuring the information in the sequences of the genome and the proteome are essential for our complete understanding of the nature and origin of life. The author writes for the computer competent reader who is interested in evolution and the origins of life. --This text refers to the Digital edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 428 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (November 27, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521350050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521350051
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,277,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Mr. Gerard Battail on March 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The previous book of Hubert P. Yockey, 'Information theory and molecular biology', published in 1992, was unfortunately out of print for many years. Publication of 'Information theory, evolution, and the origin of life' makes available much of its material. The scope of the new book has moreover been broadened to encompass the hot topics mentioned in the title.

The academic world is divided into narrow compartments, each having its own methods, language, habits and gurus. Communication between them is made difficult by the lack of a common language so they most often ignore each other. When a concept from one of them eventually penetrates another one, it often assumes a superficial form which leads to misunderstandings. Although this may sometimes be better than plain ignorance, it results in rooting prejudices wrongly believed to hold true in other disciplines, and they live long for lack of proper internal criticism. Yockey is at the antipodes of this parochial system. His life-long efforts have been intended to convince biologists that information theory, a discipline originating in communication engineering, is the proper tool for dealing with molecular biology, hence should be at the heart of biology as a whole. He possesses to a high degree the needed didactic talents, as well as an extreme rigor in vocabulary and reasoning. Not only Yockey transcends disciplinary barriers, but also the famous divide between the 'two cultures'. His extremely broad scholarship is not purely scientific, but also historical, philosophical and literary. All chapters of the book bear in epigraph quotations from poets as well as from scientists or philosophers of all times, always wonderfully relevant to the subject matter. Similarly, many excellent quotations pepper the text.
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Yockey is an extremely clear thinker, and has apparently been thinking about the connections between genetics and the mathematics of information theory for some time (1956 at least). This book, probably a difficult read for the layman, is nevertheless written in an entertaining and unbiased style. Although he slyly sneaks in references to the Bible ("...through a glass darkly...", "...stones that must be rejected by the builder...", etc.), he illuminates with equanimity both creationist and evolutionist theories with the cold light of mathematics. Ultimately, he concludes that life did not happen by chance, although he admits that he has no scenario to explain its origin. He speaks as a pure scientist and should be greatly respected for this.
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Format: Hardcover
This book has the very ambitious task of introducing the general reader to the current thinking regarding evolution, the origin of life on Earth, and the question of life on Mars, Europa and elsewhere in the universe.

Dr. Yockey shows that DNA is the genetic information system that compares in almost every aspect with digital data manipulation. DNA represents a code, a program if you will in computer terms that directs life. It also provides for the replication of life, and its evolution into changing forms over time.

The book is aimed at the non-specialist. It is not a text, but a kind of narrative history of significant developments in biology at a fundamental level. There is some mathematics in the book, but it is not a requirement that this be totally understood. The math serves as a proof of the statements he is making.

The book includes a chapter 'Does evolution need an intelligent designer?' This has caused some 'intelligent designers' to use Dr. Yockey's work in support of their argument.

Dr. Yockey concludes however, that there are some things that we just don't know and that: 'The fact that there are many things unavailable to human knowledge and reasoning, even in mathematics, does not mean that there must be an Intelligent Designer.'

This is a very enjoyable book to read. It is well written and clearly shows an intelligent approach to the problem.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be an important and valuable resource while researching a possible Ph.D. thesis topic on interactions of DNA with enzyme pathways. Having previously studied about 95% of the math and spent a month as a Visiting Scholar in the most mathematical of the genetics labs at Harvard Medical School, I feel pretty confident that I can recommend the first half of the book to those seeking to build or broaden their professional knowledge of applied mathematics in the biological and biomedical sciences or in bioengineering. Despite its obvious importance to calculating the information content of proteins, protein folding, and cell-to-cell signalling, information theory is rarely covered in the standard biomathematics texts at all. § I think Cambridge University Press ought to ask Yockey to add text material on traditional subjects like Lottka-Volterra population studies, Turing diffusion models, Hopfield networks, and the like. Also, the book needs more exercises, so it would be easier to use for teaching. And wouldn't it be great if it were packaged in Mathematica or MatLab form! § I wish I could say something intelligent about the applications to molecular biology in the second half of the book, but I don't think I've gotten enough biochemistry and molecular genetics yet. One thing's for sure, though, it's written clearly enough that any molecular biologist familiar with the state of the art ought to be able to gauge its worth pretty quickly. Yockey's math is so good it's pretty hard to imagine he flopped on the science. § Maybe some of my own work will arrive in the 2nd edition. I can hope, can't I?
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