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Freeman Dyson

Origins of Life

Origins of Life is based on a series of lectures which Freeman Dyson gave in Cambridge in 1985. Dyson was strongly influenced by Schrödinger's What is Life - a work by a physicist which had substantial infuence on the progress of biology. Dyson feels that it is time to tackle the question of the origin of life on this planet. While many accounts of the origin of life concentrate on replication, Dyson thinks that metabolism is more important. He looks at how a homeostatic system might have arisen, and in the third chapter he presents a simple mathematical model of his ideas.

As a physicist looking at biology, Dyson realises that his ideas are mostly speculative, and so the reader shouldn't take them too seriously. However, entitling the fourth chapter 'Open Questions', does tend to suggest that the questions dealt with in the earlier chapters have been sorted out - which they haven't. But it is a stimulating read, and it helps to balance out some of the 'RNA world' ideas of other writers. Also, if you don't worry about the maths in chapter 3, then it's not too difficult to read - other books on this subject have a tendency to quickly get into 'long-word' mode.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 112 pages  
ISBN: 0521626684
Salesrank: 860127
Weight:0.44 lbs
Published: 1999 Cambridge University Press
Amazon price $27.99
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 112 pages  
ISBN: 0521626684
Salesrank: 1199041
Weight:0.44 lbs
Published: 2010 Cambridge University Press
Amazon price £18.99
Marketplace:New from £13.89:Used from £9.99
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 112 pages  
ISBN: 0521626684
Salesrank: 616829
Weight:0.44 lbs
Published: 1999 Cambridge University Press
Amazon price CDN$ 32.27
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 25.79:Used from CDN$ 22.05
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Product Description
How did life on Earth originate? Did replication or metabolism come first in the history of life? In the second edition of the acclaimed Origins of Life, distinguished scientist and science writer Freeman Dyson examines these questions and discusses the two main theories that try to explain how naturally occurring chemicals could organize themselves into living creatures. The majority view is that life began with replicating molecules, the precursors of modern genes. The minority belief is that random populations of molecules evolved metabolic activities before exact replication existed and that natural selection drove the evolution of cells toward greater complexity for a long time without the benefit of genes. Dyson analyzes both of these theories with reference to recent important discoveries by geologists and chemists, aiming to stimulate new experiments that could help decide which theory is correct. This second edition covers the impact revolutionary discoveries such as the existence of ribozymes, enzymes made of RNA; the likelihood that many of the most ancient creatures are thermophilic, living in hot environments; and evidence of life in the most ancient of all terrestrial rocks in Greenland have had on our ideas about how life began. It is a clearly written, fascinating book that will appeal to anyone interested in the origins of life.