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About Life
Concepts in Modern Biology
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Main description:

Thanks to the popular media, and to books by Dawkins, Fortey, Gould, Margulis and other writers, people are informed about many aspects of biology. Everyone seems to know a little about evolution, for example, and about DNA and the possibilities (good and bad) afforded by research in molecular genetics. Most people know some of the arguments for and against the likelihood of life on other planets. And so on. We are glad that these pieces of information have become so widely available. However, we do not assume any particular knowledge (other than the most basic) in this book. Our aim is to address general questions rather than specific issues. We want to enable our readers to join their disparate pieces of knowledge about biology together. The most basic of these general questions – and perhaps the most difficult – can be expressed in beguilingly simple words: “What is life”? What does modern biology tell us about the essential differences between living organisms and the inanimate world? An attempt to answer this question takes us on a journey through almost the whole of contemporary cell and molecular biology, which occupies the first half of the book. The journey is worth the effort. The provisional answer we attain provides a coherent, unifying context in which we can discuss evolution, the origin of life, extraterrestrial life, the meaning of “intelligence”, the evolution of the human brain and the nature of mind.


Makes modern cell biology comprehensible to the non-specialist

Integrates cell biology with origin-of-life theories

Adopts a distinctive position in respect of extraterrestrial life and human uniqueness

Back cover:

This book uses modern biological knowledge to tackle the question: "What distinguishes living organisms from the non-living world?" In the first few chapters, the authors draw on recent advances in cell and molecular biology to develop an account of the "living state" that applies to all organisms, but only to organisms. Subsequent chapters use this account to explore questions about evolution, the origin of life and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Towards the end of the book the authors consider human evolution, intelligence and the extent to which our species can be regarded as biologically unique. About Life is written as far as possible in non-technical language; all scientific terms are explained straightforwardly when they are introduced. It is aimed at the general, non-specialist reader, but the novel approach that it takes to general issues in biology will also interest students of the life sciences.


Ingredients of the Simplest Cells.- Bigger Cells.- Hives of Industry.- Delights of Transport.- As If Standing Still.- Internal State and Gene Expression.- Sustaining and Changing the Internal State.- Responding to the Environment.- The Living State.- Stability and Change in DNA.- The Spice of Life.- Curriculum Vitae.- The Origin of Life.- Other Worlds.- Intelligent Behaviour and Brains.- Human Evolution.- Cells, Brains and Computers: Towards a Characterisation of Mind.


ISBN-13: 9789048173631
Publisher: Springer (Springer Netherlands)
Publication date: October, 2010
Pages: 244
Weight: 391g
Availability: POD
Subcategories: Neuroscience
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Average Rating 

From the reviews:

I have read some of the chapters and I am most impressed. It is well written, scholarly and deals with the subject in "4-D" i.e. not as we know it now but as knowledge developed in time. For me, who has lived through the development of the subject since the late 1960s and reviewed the literature as far back as Hippocrates, it was like reading a novel that I could not put down.

Prof. A Nicolaides MS FRCS

"This delightfully written book addresses major questions and some of the biggest ideas in biology today. … The book is moderately well-illustrated with photomicrographs and line drawings … . The book includes numerous insightful analogies and covers somewhat offbeat topics that an instructor could easily adapt to enliven classroom presentations. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above." (P. E. Hertz, CHOICE, Vol. 45 (2), 2007)