Creation: The Origin of Life / The Future of Life

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9780670920464: Creation: The Origin of Life / The Future of Life

What is life?
 
Humans have been asking this question for thou­sands of years. But as technology has advanced and our understanding of biology has deepened, the answer has evolved. For decades, scientists have been exploring the limits of nature by modifying and manipulating DNA, cells and whole organisms to create new ones that could never have existed on their own.
 
In Creation, science writer Adam Rutherford explains how we are now radically exceeding the boundaries of evolution and engineering entirely novel creatures—from goats that produce spider silk in their milk to bacteria that excrete diesel to genetic circuits that identify and destroy cancer cells. As strange as some of these creations may sound, this new, synthetic biology is helping scientists develop radical solutions to some of the world’s most pressing crises—from food shortages to pandemic disease to climate change—and is paving the way for inventions once relegated to science fiction.
 
Meanwhile, these advances are shedding new light on the biggest mystery of all—how did life begin? We know that every creature on Earth came from a single cell, sparked into existence four billion years ago. And as we come closer and closer to understanding the ancient root that connects all living things, we may finally be able to achieve a second genesis—the creation of new life where none existed before.
 
Creation takes us on a journey four billion years in the making—from the very first cell to the ground-breaking biological inventions that will shape the future of our planet.

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About the Author:

ADAM RUTHERFORD is a science writer and broadcaster. He is an editor at Nature, writes for the Guardian and regularly presents programs for BBC Radio 4 in the UK. He has also presented several acclaimed science series for BBC television, including the award winning three-part series The Cell. A geneticist by training, he has a PhD from University College London.

From Booklist:

*Starred Review* The first part of this book relates what’s been learned about the origin of life on earth; the second, what’s being done to modify existing life-forms and produce new ones. Though both are engaging, many may find the first more dazzling. Rutherford starts small, discussing the cell and how it is begotten, not created but ultimately taking in genetics and DNA as well as the earth’s physical history before life emerged from a microscopic chamber at the bottom of the sea, four million years ago. The second part lacks the first’s sweeping grandeur, being set in a much narrower time frame, the 30 years bioengineering has been with us. That’s long enough, however, to have seen gene-splicing give way to synthetic biology at the field’s cutting-edge as the spider-goat and biofuels have been supplanted in novelty by the successful copying by RNA of a molecule formed by swapping in a different amino acid for one of the four naturally found in the DNA sequence, which ultimately suggests a different basis for life, one that is created, not begotten by intelligent (human) design. Creation is the first book by this geneticist-journalist with two well-received BBC4 series, The Gene Code and The Cell, to his credit. May it augur many more top-drawer science books by Rutherford. --Ray Olson

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Rutherford; Adam
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