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When Darwin set out to explain the origin of species, he made no attempt to answer the deeper question: what is life?
For generations, scientists have struggled to make sense of this fundamental question. Life really does look like magic: even a humble bacterium accomplishes things so dazzling that no human engineer can match it. And yet, huge advances in molecular biology over the past few decades have served only to deepen the mystery. So can life be explained by known physics and chemistry, or do we need something fundamentally new?
In this penetrating and wide-ranging new analysis, world-renowned physicist and science communicator Paul Davies searches for answers in a field so new and fast-moving that it lacks a name, a domain where computing, chemistry, quantum physics and nanotechnology intersect. At the heart of these diverse fields, Davies explains, is the concept of information: a quantity with the power to unify biology with physics, transform technology and medicine, and even to illuminate the age-old question of whether we are alone in the universe.
From life's murky origins to the microscopic engines that run the cells of our bodies, The Demon in the Machine is a breath-taking journey across the landscape of physics, biology, logic and computing. Weaving together cancer and consciousness, two-headed worms and bird navigation, Davies reveals how biological organisms garner and process information to conjure order out of chaos, opening a window on the secret of life itself.
Paul Davies is a Regents' Professor of Physics and Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University. The author of some 30 books, his many awards include the Templeton Prize and the Faraday Prize of The Royal Society. He is a Member of the Order of Australia and has an asteroid named after him.
"A gripping new drama in science [...] if you want to understand how the concept of life is changing, read this"
– Professor Andrew Briggs, University of Oxford