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Washington Post

Robert M Hazen

Genesis: The Scientific quest for Life's Origin

The origin of life on Earth from non-living matter nearly 4 billion years ago is a topic which should be of interest to us all. However books on the subject either tend to lack detail, or become too technical for the general reader. Hazen has a background of making science more accessible and here has managed to create a book which is easy to read, but also covers much of the research in this area. It's a subject in which controvesies abound, and I would recommend this book to all readers who want an informed account of the question of life's origin.

Hazen's central theme is that of emergence - how a complex system can have behaviour not present in its constituents. He shows how the generation of small biological molecules is surprisingly easy, but the joining together of these into the macromolecules of life and the involvment of these macromolecules in self-replicating systems, are trickier questions for which there are several competing hypotheses.

Hazen has played a significant part in recent research in this area and his descriptions of the competition between various research groups adds interest to the work, while avoiding the trap which some authors fall into of losing sight of the science in the accounts of personal interactions. info
Hardcover 368 pages  
ISBN: 0309094321
Salesrank: 1002283
Published: 2005 Joseph Henry Press
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Hardcover 368 pages  
ISBN: 0309094321
Salesrank: 1039262
Weight:1.45 lbs
Published: 2005 Henry (Joseph) Press
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Hardcover 339 pages  
ISBN: 0309094321
Salesrank: 623422
Weight:1.45 lbs
Published: 2006 National Academy Press (Trade)
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Product Description

Life on Earth arose nearly 4 billion years ago, bursting forth from air, water, and rock. Though the process obeyed all the rules of chemistry and physics, the details of that original event pose as deep a mystery as any facing science. How did non-living chemicals become alive? While the question is (deceivingly) simple, the answers are unquestionably complex. Science inevitably plays a key role in any discussion of life’s origins, dealing less with the question of why life appeared on Earth than with where, when, and how it emerged on the blasted, barren face of our primitive planet. Astrobiologist Robert Hazen has spent many years dealing with the fundamental questions of life’s genesis. As an active research scientist, he is down deep in all the messy details that science has to offer on the subject, tracing the inexorable sequence of events that led to the complicated interactions of carbonbased molecules. As he takes us through the astounding process of emergence, we are witness to the first tentative steps toward lifeâ€"from the unfathomable abundance of carbon biomolecules synthesized in the black vacuum of space to the surface of the Earth to deep within our planet’s restless crust. We are privy to the breathtaking drama that rapidly unfolds as life prevails. The theory of emergence is poised to answer a multitude of questionsâ€"even as it raises the possibility that natural processes exist beyond what we now know, perhaps beyond what we even comprehend. Genesis tells the tale of transforming scientific advances in our quest for life’s origins. Written with grace, beauty, and authority, it goes directly to the heart of who we are and why we are here.