This book uses modern biological knowledge to tackle the question of what distinguishes living organisms from the non-living world. The authors first draw on recent advances in cell and molecular biology to develop an account of the living state that applies to all organisms (and only to organisms). This account is then used to explore questions about evolution, the origin of life, and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. The novel approach taken by this book to issues in biology will interest and be accessible to both the general reader as well as students and specialists in the field.
Introduction.- Ingredients of the Simplest Cells (Prokaryotes and the Sizes of their Contents).- Bigger Cells (Eukaryotic Cells and their Contents).- Hives of Industry (A Survey of Intermediary Metabolism).- Delights of Transport (Mechanisms by which Cellular Contents are Moved around).- As if Standing Still (Cellular Homeostasis and Regulatory Processes).- Internal State and Gene Expression (Transcription and its Control).- Sustaining and Changing the Internal State (The Interrelationship between Gene Expression and the Cell?s Current Composition and Functional State).- Responding to the Environment (Signal Processing and its Relationship to Cell Structure, Metabolism and Gene Expression).- The Living State (A general characterization of "life").- Stability and Change in DNA (Why DNA is highly stable and a Survey of the Mechanisms by which it can Change).- The Spice of Life (Variety, Habitats, Natural Selection, Symbiosis, Ecosystems).- Curriculum Vitae (An Outline History of Life on Earth).- The Origin of Life (Major Ideas and Unanswered Questions).- Other Worlds (Ideas about Extraterrestrial Life, including a Critique of the Assumptions behind the "Drake Equation" and the SETI Project).- Intelligent Behaviour and Brains (The Meaning of "Intelligence").- Human Intelligence (Human Evolution and the Question of Human Uniqueness).- Cells, Brains and Computers: towards a Characterisation of Mind.- Glossary.- Bibliography.
From the reviews: I have read some of the chapters and I am most impressed. It is well written, scholarly and deals with the subject in "4-D" i.e. not as we know it now but as knowledge developed in time. For me, who has lived through the development of the subject since the late 1960s and reviewed the literature as far back as Hippocrates, it was like reading a novel that I could not put down. Prof. A Nicolaides MS FRCS "This delightfully written book addresses major questions and some of the biggest ideas in biology today. ! The book is moderately well-illustrated with photomicrographs and line drawings ! . The book includes numerous insightful analogies and covers somewhat offbeat topics that an instructor could easily adapt to enliven classroom presentations. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above." (P. E. Hertz, CHOICE, Vol. 45 (2), 2007)