Werner Loewenstein

The touchstone of life

The advent of computers has led to a new way of looking at scientific subjects - in terms of the flow of information. In The Touchstone of Life Werner Loewenstein uses this viewpoint to look at the behaviour of cells and so the nature of living things. The book is in three parts. The first introduces the concepts required, and then goes on to look at the origin of life in terms of networks of chemical reactions. The second part looks at information flow within living cells - at how the instructions coded for in DNA are carried out, and at the workings of enzymes.

The third part looks at information flow between cells, and how this made possible the existence of multicellular organisms. The book makes much use of analogy and metaphor, putting across the subject in terms of stories about (Maxwellian) demons and the like. I wasn't so keen on this - I felt that sometimes it obscured the important content, and made the book overlong and wordy. However, if you can put up with this then you are likely to get a lot of benefit from this book, as it makes an advanced subject accessible to less technically minded readers.

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Paperback 384 pages  
ISBN: 0195140575
Salesrank: 423413
Weight:1.55 lbs
Published: 2000 Oxford University Press
Amazon price $8.17
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 496 pages  
ISBN: 0140289496
Salesrank: 7018667
Weight:0.75 lbs
Published: 2000 Penguin Books Ltd
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 384 pages  
ISBN: 0195140575
Salesrank: 819766
Weight:1.55 lbs
Published: 2003 Oxford University Press
Amazon price CDN$ 11.72
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 10.00:Used from CDN$ 3.30
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Product Description
No one can escape a sense of wonder when looking at an organism from within. From the humblest amoeba to man, from the smallest cell organelle to the amazing human brain, life presents us with example after example of highly ordered cellular matter, precisely organized and shaped to perform coordinated functions. But where does this order spring from? How does a living organism manage to do what nonliving things cannot do--bring forth and maintain all that order against the unrelenting, disordering pressures of the universe?
In The Touchstone of Life, world-renowned biophysicist Werner Loewenstein seeks answers to these ancient riddles by applying information theory to recent discoveries in molecular biology. Taking us into a fascinating microscopic world, he lays bare an all-pervading communication network inside and between our cells--a web of extraordinary beauty, where molecular information flows in gracefully interlaced circles. Loewenstein then takes us on an exhilarating journey along that web and we meet its leading actors, the macromolecules, and see how they extract order out of the erratic quantum world; and through the powerful lens of information theory, we are let in on their trick, the most dazzling of magician's acts, whereby they steal form out of formlessness.
The Touchstone of Life flashes with fresh insights into the mystery of life. Boldly straddling the line between biology and physics, the book offers a breathtaking view of that hidden world where molecular information turns the wheels of life. Loewenstein makes these complex scientific subjects lucid and fascinating, as he sheds light on the most fundamental aspects of our existence.