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Academic & Professional Books  Reference  Physical Sciences  Physical Sciences: General

From Matter to Life Information and Causality

By: Sara Imari Walker(Editor), Paul CW Davies(Editor), George FR Ellis(Editor)
494 pages, 49 b/w photos and b/w illustrations, tables
From Matter to Life
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  • From Matter to Life ISBN: 9781107150539 Hardback Feb 2017 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 6 days
Price: £30.99
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

Recent advances suggest that the concept of information might hold the key to unravelling the mystery of life's nature and origin. Fresh insights from a broad and authoritative range of articulate and respected experts focus on the transition from matter to life, and hence reconcile the deep conceptual schism between the way we describe physical and biological systems. A unique cross-disciplinary perspective, drawing on expertise from philosophy, biology, chemistry, physics, and cognitive and social sciences, provides a new way to look at the deepest questions of our existence. This book addresses the role of information in life, and how it can make a difference to what we know about the world. Students, researchers, and all those interested in what life is and how it began will gain insights into the nature of life and its origins that touch on nearly every domain of science.


1. Introduction Sara Imari Walker, Paul C. W. Davies and F. R. Ellis

Part I. Physics and Life:
2. The 'hard problem' of life Sara Imari Walker and Paul C. W. Davies
3. Beyond initial conditions and laws of motion: constructor theory of information and life Chiara Marletto

Part II. Bio from Bit:
4. (How) did information emerge? Anne-Marie Grisogono
5. On the emerging codes for chemical evolution Jillian E. Smith-Carpenter, Sha Li, Jay T. Goodwin, Anil K. Mehta and David G. Lynn
6. Digital and analogue information in organisms Denis Noble
7. From entropy to information: biased typewriters and the origin of life Christoph Adami and Thomas Labar

Part III. Life's Hidden Information:
8. Cryptographic nature David Krakauer
9. Noise and function Steven Weinstein and Theodore Pavlic
10. The many faces of state space compression David Wolpert, Eric Libby, Joshua Grochow and Simon DeDeo
11. Causality, information and biological computation: an algorithmic software approach to life, disease and the immune system Hector Zenil, Angelika Schmidt and Jesper Tegnér

Part IV. Complexity and Causality:
12. Life's information hierarchy Jessica Flack
13. Living through downward causation: from molecules to ecosystems Keith D. Farnsworth, George F. R. Ellis and Luc Jaeger
14. Automata and animats: from dynamics to cause-effect structures Larissa Albantakis and Giulio Tononi
15. Biological information, causality and specificity – an intimate relationship Karola Stotz and Paul Griffiths

Part V. From Matter to Mind:
16. Major transitions in political order Simon DeDeo
17. Bits from biology for computational intelligence Michael Wibral, Joseph Lizier and Viola Priesemann
18. Machine learning and the questions it raises G. Andrew D. Briggs and Dawid Potgieter.

Customer Reviews


Sara Imari Walker is a theoretical physicist and astrobiologist. She is an Assistant Professor in the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University. She is also a Fellow of the Arizona State University-Santa Fe Institute Center for Biosocial Complex Systems, co-founder of the astrobiology-themed social website, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Blue Marble Space. She is active in public engagement in science, with recent appearances on 'Through the Wormhole' and NPR's Science Friday.

Paul C. W. Davies is Regents' Professor and Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University. He is a theoretical physicist, cosmologist and astrobiologist. He has written 30 books, many for the general public. In 1995 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for his work on the deeper meaning of science. He was also awarded the Faraday Prize by the Royal Society, the Kelvin Medal by the Institute of Physics, the Robinson Cosmology Prize, and three honorary degrees. In 2007 he was named a Member of the Order of Australia in the Queen's birthday honours list and in 2011 he received the Bicentenary Medal of Chile. The asteroid 1992 OG was renamed (6870) Pauldavies.

George F. R. Ellis, FRS, is Professor Emeritus of Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town. He is a relativist and cosmologist who has worked on exact and perturbed cosmological models in general relativity theory and carefully studied observational limits in cosmology. He wrote The Large Scale Structure of Space Time with Steven Hawking. His more recent research relates to the philosophy of cosmology and the emergence of complexity. He has various honorary degrees, and was awarded the Star of South Africa Medal by President Nelson Mandela in 1999 and the Templeton Prize in 2004.

- Sara Imari Walker
- Paul C. W. Davies
- George F. R. Ellis
- Chiara Marletto
- Anne-Marie Grisogono
- Jillian E. Smith-Carpenter
- Sha Li
- Jay T. Goodwin
- Anil K. Mehta
- David G. Lynn
- Denis Noble
- Christoph Adami
- Thomas Labar
- David Krakauer
- Steven Weinstein
- Theodore P. Pavlic
- David Wolpert
- Eric Libby
- Joshua Grochow
- Simon DeDeo
- Hector Zenil
- Angelika Schmidt
- Jesper Tegnér
- Jessica Flack
- Keith D. Farnsworth
- Luc Jaeger
- Larissa Albantakis
- Giulio Tononi
- Karola Stotz
- Paul Griffiths
- Michael Wibral
- Joseph Lizier
- Viola Priesemann
- G. Andrew D. Briggs
- Dawid Potgieter

By: Sara Imari Walker(Editor), Paul CW Davies(Editor), George FR Ellis(Editor)
494 pages, 49 b/w photos and b/w illustrations, tables
Media reviews

"From Matter to Life, by Walker, Davies and Ellis, is an astonishing, important book. What is information? Can information have causal consequences? If so, how? With new mathematics, wide and rigorous, this collection is a powerful springboard with which we can propel our science forward."
– Stuart Kauffman FRSC, Mac Arthur Fellow

"The editors of From Matter to Life have complied a series of cross-disciplinary essays that focus on how the science of information can explain the function of living organisms. Contributions are made by noted biologists, chemists, and physicists who research the principles of chemical information. The book begins with the physics of life and other material that supports later findings about chemical principles of how molecular arrangements use an inherent system of information, which explains a broad array of living properties and organismic interactions. Many of the explanations are accompanied with detailed scientific accounts and mathematical formulas [...] most of the explained science requires some proficiency in chemistry, mathematics, and physics. The chapters are accompanied with ample primary references. This is an eclectic book that is appropriate for more advanced students and faculty, or for philosophy of science libraries."
– B. R. Shmaefsky, CHOICE

"Each contribution is written by an expert on the field, in a scientific style and fully referenced to scientific publications [...] there is no definite or easy answer to the questions about information as a physical entity or its role in emergence of life from matter, but a number of interesting points are made about the nature of information and its role in physical reality. It is interesting to see the way in which the various disciplines, mainly physics, chemistry, biology, information theory and related fields, but also philosophy and cognitive and social sciences approach the issue. [This book is] a collection of scientific essays on new questions and what the various disciplines have to provide in the approach to give answers. [...] It is an interesting read for all those who want their thoughts provoked around the origin of life and what role information can possibly have in it."
– Manuel Vogel, Contemporary Physics

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