The Origins of Life and the Universe

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9780231126557: The Origins of Life and the Universe
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The Origins of Life and the Universe is the culmination of a university science professor's search for understanding and is based on his experiences teaching the fundamental issues of physics, chemistry, and biology in the classroom. What is life? Where did it come from? How can understanding the origins of life on Earth help us understand the origins of the universe, and vice versa? These are questions that have occupied us all. This is a book, then, about the beginning of things―of the universe, matter, stars, and planetary systems, and finally, of life itself―topics of profound interest that are rarely considered together.

After surveying prescientific accounts of the origins of life, the book examines the concepts of modern physics and cosmology, in particular the two pillars of modern physics, relativity and quantum theory, and how they can be applied to the Big Bang model of the creation of the universe. The author then considers molecular genetics and DNA, the famed building block of life. In addition to assessing various hypotheses concerning the appearance of the first bacterial cells and their evolution into more complex eukaryotic cells, this section explains how "protocells" may have started a kind of integrated metabolism and how horizontal gene transfer may have speeded up evolution. Finally, the book discusses the possibility that life did not originate on planet Earth but first appeared on other solar planets, or perhaps in other star systems. How would such a possibility affect our understanding of the meaning of life, or of its ultimate fate in the universe? The book ends as it begins, with profound questions and penetrating answers, a state-of-the-art guide to unlocking the scientific mysteries of life and matter.

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About the Author:

Paul F. Lurquin is professor of genetics at Washington State University. He is the author of The Green Phoenix: A History of Genetically Modified Plants (Columbia, 2000) and High Tech Harvest: Understanding Genetically Modified Food Plants.

From Publishers Weekly:

Lurquin, a professor of genetics at Washington State University, surveys the creation of life from the Big Bang through the development of simple amino acids and proteins, the appearance of RNA and DNA and, finally, the development of single-cell organisms. The creation of basic life forms is more than enough to keep him busy, so he doesn't pursue advanced natural selection or the evolution of humans. He explains in simple layperson's terms how early forms of genetic material could replicate and assume more complicated forms, and how early single-cell creatures assimilated other single-cell organisms (the origin of the mitochondria in our own cells) and developed more complex metabolisms. In his last chapter, Lurquin speculates on what may happen in the far distant future as the sun expands, then shrinks and eventually blinks out, and black holes swallow up all the galaxies in the universe. He treats competing theories of the origin of simple amino acids and proteins with an even hand and respectfully refutes some of the objections of neo-creationists to the "accidental" creation of life and evolution. Lurquin skillfully weaves together topics in cosmology, genetics and biology. Although dedicated science buffs probably won't find much that's new, novices and especially high school students looking for a well-rounded intro will find the book thought provoking. 53 illus.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Book Description Columbia University Press, United States, 2003. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. The Origins of Life and the Universe is the culmination of a university science professor's search for understanding and is based on his experiences teaching the fundamental issues of physics, chemistry, and biology in the classroom. What is life? Where did it come from? How can understanding the origins of life on Earth help us understand the origins of the universe, and vice versa? These are questions that have occupied us all. This is a book, then, about the beginning of things-of the universe, matter, stars, and planetary systems, and finally, of life itself-topics of profound interest that are rarely considered together. After surveying prescientific accounts of the origins of life, the book examines the concepts of modern physics and cosmology, in particular the two pillars of modern physics, relativity and quantum theory, and how they can be applied to the Big Bang model of the creation of the universe. The author then considers molecular genetics and DNA, the famed building block of life.In addition to assessing various hypotheses concerning the appearance of the first bacterial cells and their evolution into more complex eukaryotic cells, this section explains how "protocells" may have started a kind of integrated metabolism and how horizontal gene transfer may have speeded up evolution. Finally, the book discusses the possibility that life did not originate on planet Earth but first appeared on other solar planets, or perhaps in other star systems. How would such a possibility affect our understanding of the meaning of life, or of its ultimate fate in the universe? The book ends as it begins, with profound questions and penetrating answers, a state-of-the-art guide to unlocking the scientific mysteries of life and matter. Seller Inventory # BTE9780231126557

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