The recent dramatic growth of research into the origins of life has led to the formation of a new, interdisciplinary branch of science Exo/Astrobiology, the ambitious goal of which is the study of the phenomenon of "life" in our universe.
In this insightful overview for the interested layman, Rauchfuss reviews the manifold attempts of scientists to find answers to the question of "where" life comes from. After an historical introduction, he surveys the origin of the universe, the solar system, our Earth, meteorites and comets. Then he explains experiments and theories on chemical evolution, followed by treatments of proteins, peptides and their possible protoforms. Further chapters deal with important hypotheses and theories on biogenesis, for example inorganic systems, hydrothermal vents and the models proposed by key theorists. A discussion of basic theoretical questions, the chirality problem, and the search for the first traces of life follow, with details on the the formation of the protocell.
Finally the question of extraterrestrial life forms, both within and outside our solar system, concludes the book. Reporting on both successes and failures, Rauchfuss makes it clear that very many open questions and unsolved riddles are still awaiting answers, indeed many more than often admitted.
Historical Survey.- The Cosmos, the Solar System and the Primeval Earth.- From the Planets to Interstellar Matter.- "Chemical Evolution".- Peptides and Proteins: the "Protein World".- The "RNA World".- Other Theories and Hypotheses.- The Genetic Code and Other Theories.- Basic Phenomena.- Primeval Cells and Cell Models.- Exo/Astrobiology, and Other Related Subjects.- Epilogue.- List of Abbreviations.- Glossary of Terms.