304 pages, illustrations
Are We Alone in the Universe? In this provocative and far-reaching book, internationally acclaimed physicist and writer Paul Davies confronts one of science's great outstanding mysteries – the origin of life.
Three and a half billion years ago, Mars resembled earth. It was warm and wet and could have supported primitive organisms. If life once existed on Mars, might it have originated there and traveled to earth inside meteorites blasted into space by cosmic impacts?
Davies builds on recent scientific discoveries and theories to address larger questions of existence: What, exactly, is life? Is it the inevitable by-product of physical laws, as many scientists maintain, or an almost miraculous accident? Are we alone in the universe, or will life emerge on all earthlike planets? And if there is life elsewhere in the universe, is it preordained to evolve toward greater complexity and intelligence?
Through his search for answers to these questions, Davies explores the ultimate mystery of mankind's existence – who we are and what our place might be in the unfolding drama of the cosmos.
"Davies makes accessible a subject growing increasingly arcane."
– Leonard Shlain, San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
"If you are going to read only one book on the origin of life [...] consider this one."
– Lee Smolin, The New York Times Book Review
"Paul Davies has been writing excellent books about science for so long that it is hard to believe that he is still getting better. But on this evidence, he is [...] Delightful."
– John Gribbin, author of Companion to the Cosmos
Chapter 1: The Meaning of Life Life's mysterious origin What is life? The life force and other discredited notions The tale of the ancient molecule Microbes and the search for Eden
Chapter 2: Against the Tide The degeneration principle Where does biological information come from? The entropy gap: gravity as the fountainhead of order
Chapter 3: Out of the Slime The tree of life The three domains of life The earliest rock fossils Spontaneous generation Re-creating the primordial soup Chance and the origin of life
Chapter 4: The Message in the Machine Replicate, replicate! Making a living The genetic code Getting the message A code within the code?
Chapter 5: The Chicken-and-Egg Paradox RNA first RNA last Self-organization: something for nothing?
Chapter 6: The Cosmic Connection The stardust in your eyes Cosmic chemistry Genesis from space Impact The Sisyphus effect
Chapter 7: Superbugs Some like it hot Life in the underworld Ascent from Hades Let them eat rock The rest is history
Chapter 8: Mars: Red and Dead? A bad place for a vacation Flood The Martian greenhouse Was there life on Mars? Is there still life on Mars? Meteorites from Mars Traces of life? Killer plague from the red planet!
Chapter 9: Panspermia Survival in space Did life come to Earth in a meteorite? Did Earthlife come from Mars? Did Earthlife go to Mars?
Chapter 10: A Bio-Friendly Universe? Did life ever begin? Are the laws of nature rigged in favor of life? Is it Darwinism all the way down? A ladder of progress? Is mind predestined?
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