Book picks similar to
The Machinery of Life by David S. Goodsell
Venomous: How Earth's Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry
Christie Wilcox - 2016
Humans have feared them for centuries, long considering them the assassins and pariahs of the natural world.Now, in Venomous, the biologist Christie Wilcox investigates and illuminates the animals of our nightmares, arguing that they hold the keys to a deeper understanding of evolution, adaptation, and immunity. She reveals just how venoms function and what they do to the human body. With Wilcox as our guide, we encounter a jellyfish with tentacles covered in stinging cells that can kill humans in minutes; a two-inch caterpillar with toxic bristles that trigger hemorrhaging; and a stunning blue-ringed octopus capable of inducing total paralysis. How do these animals go about their deadly work? How did they develop such intricate, potent toxins? Wilcox takes us around the world and down to the cellular level to find out.Throughout her journey, Wilcox meets the intrepid scientists who risk their lives studying these lethal beasts, as well as “self-immunizers” who deliberately expose themselves to snakebites. Along the way, she puts her own life on the line, narrowly avoiding being envenomated herself. Drawing on her own research, Wilcox explains how venom scientists are untangling the mechanisms of some of our most devastating diseases, and reports on pharmacologists who are already exploiting venoms to produce lifesaving drugs. We discover that venomous creatures are in fact keystone species that play crucial roles in their ecosystems and ours—and for this alone, they ought to be protected and appreciated.Thrilling and surprising at every turn, Venomous will change everything you thought you knew about the planet’s most dangerous animals.
The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life
Nick Lane - 2015
Yet there’s a black hole at the heart of biology. We do not know why complex life is the way it is, or, for that matter, how life first began. In The Vital Question, award-winning author and biochemist Nick Lane radically reframes evolutionary history, putting forward a solution to conundrums that have puzzled generations of scientists.For two and a half billion years, from the very origins of life, single-celled organisms such as bacteria evolved without changing their basic form. Then, on just one occasion in four billion years, they made the jump to complexity. All complex life, from mushrooms to man, shares puzzling features, such as sex, which are unknown in bacteria. How and why did this radical transformation happen?The answer, Lane argues, lies in energy: all life on Earth lives off a voltage with the strength of a lightning bolt. Building on the pillars of evolutionary theory, Lane’s hypothesis draws on cutting-edge research into the link between energy and cell biology, in order to deliver a compelling account of evolution from the very origins of life to the emergence of multicellular organisms, while offering deep insights into our own lives and deaths.Both rigorous and enchanting, The Vital Question provides a solution to life’s vital question: why are we as we are, and indeed, why are we here at all?
Your Inner Fish: a Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body
Neil Shubin - 2008
By examining fossils and DNA, Shubin shows us that our hands actually resemble fish fins, our head is organized like that of a long-extinct jawless fish, and major parts of our genome look and function like those of worms and bacteria.Shubin makes us see ourselves and our world in a completely new light. Your Inner Fish is science writing at its finest-enlightening, accessible, and told with irresistible enthusiasm.
Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom
Sean B. Carroll - 2005
Evo Devo Evolutionary Developmental Biology is the new science that has finally cracked open the box. Within the pages of his rich and riveting book, Sean B. Carroll explains how we are discovering that complex life is ironically much simpler than anyone ever expected.
What Is Life? with Mind and Matter and Autobiographical Sketches
Erwin Schrödinger - 1944
The book was based on a course of public lectures delivered by Schrödinger in February 1943 at Trinity College, Dublin. Schrödinger's lecture focused on one important question: "how can the events in space and time which take place within the spatial boundary of a living organism be accounted for by physics and chemistry?" In the book, Schrödinger introduced the idea of an "aperiodic crystal" that contained genetic information in its configuration of covalent chemical bonds. In the 1950s, this idea stimulated enthusiasm for discovering the genetic molecule and would give both Francis Crick and James Watson initial inspiration in their research.
Neil A. Campbell - 1987
This text has invited more than 4 million students into the study of this dynamic and essential discipline.The authors have restructured each chapter around a conceptual framework of five or six big ideas. An Overview draws students in and sets the stage for the rest of the chapter, each numbered Concept Head announces the beginning of a new concept, and Concept Check questions at the end of each chapter encourage students to assess their mastery of a given concept. New Inquiry Figures focus students on the experimental process, and new Research Method Figures illustrate important techniques in biology. Each chapter ends with a Scientific Inquiry Question that asks students to apply scientific investigation skills to the content of the chapter.
On Growth and Form
D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson - 1917
Why do living things and physical phenomena take the forms they do? Analyzing the mathematical and physical aspects of biological processes, this historic work, first published in 1917, has become renowned as well for the poetry of is descriptions.
Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves
George M. Church - 2012
Building a house would entail no more work than planting a seed in the ground. These scenarios may seem far-fetched, but pioneering geneticist George Church and science writer Ed Regis show that synthetic biology is bringing us ever closer to making such visions a reality. In Regenesis, Church and Regis explore the possibilities—and perils—of the emerging field of synthetic biology. Synthetic biology, in which living organisms are selectively altered by modifying substantial portions of their genomes, allows for the creation of entirely new species of organisms. Until now, nature has been the exclusive arbiter of life, death, and evolution; with synthetic biology, we now have the potential to write our own biological future. Indeed, as Church and Regis show, it even enables us to revisit crucial points in the evolution of life and, through synthetic biological techniques, choose different paths from those nature originally took. Such exploits will involve far more than just microbial tinkering. Full-blown genomic engineering will make possible incredible feats, from resurrecting woolly mammoths and other extinct organisms to creating mirror life forms with a molecular structure the opposite of our own. These technologies—far from the out-of-control nightmare depicted in science fiction—have the power to improve human and animal health, increase our intelligence, enhance our memory, and even extend our life span. A breathtaking look at the potential of this world-changing technology, Regenesis is nothing less than a guide to the future of life.
Frank Ryan - 2009
His explanation of the role of natural selection in driving the evolution of life on earth depended on steady variation of living things over time – but he was unable to explain how this variation occurred. In the 150 years since publication of the Origin of Species, we have discovered three main sources for this variation – mutation, hybridisation and epigenetics. Then on Sunday, 12th February, 2001 the evidence for perhaps the most extraordinary cause of variation was simultaneously released by two organisations – the code for the entire human genome. Not only was the human genome unbelievably simple (it is only ten times more complicated than a bacteria), but embedded in the code were large fragments that were derived from viruses – fragments that were vital to evolution of all organisms and the evidence for a fourth and vital source of variation – viruses.Virolution was the subject of a feature article in New Scientist. Translated into Russian, French, German and Japanese, this book has become a hot topic for discussion among scientists and thinkers in recent years. It offers a very new interpretation of our human evolution - and extrapolates to new avenues of approach to fight important diseases, such as cancer and MS.In early 2014 Dr Ryan has co-authored a relevant new paper with Swedish and Chinese scientists working on the Human Proteome project. More details about this paper and other developments will follow in his articles and blogs. So popular is the topic he has been commissioned to give a plenary lecture followed by planning and research advice to PhD students in biology and evolutionary biology at the annual European Society for Evolutionary Biology annual meeting for PhD students in Belgium in September 2014.More anon...
The Double Helix
James D. Watson - 1968
At the time, Watson was only 24, a young scientist hungry to make his mark. His uncompromisingly honest account of the heady days of their thrilling sprint against other world-class researchers to solve one of science's greatest mysteries gives a dazzlingly clear picture of a world of brilliant scientists with great gifts, very human ambitions & bitter rivalries. With humility unspoiled by false modesty, Watson relates his & Crick's desperate efforts to beat Linus Pauling to the Holy Grail of life sciences, the identification of the basic building block of life. Never has a scientist been so truthful in capturing in words the flavor of his work.
Sociobiology: The New Synthesis
Edward O. Wilson - 1975
When this classic work was first published in 1975, it created a new discipline and started a tumultuous round in the age-old nature versus nurture debate. Although voted by officers and fellows of the international Animal Behavior Society the most important book on animal behavior of all time, Sociobiology is probably more widely known as the object of bitter attacks by social scientists and other scholars who opposed its claim that human social behavior, indeed human nature, has a biological foundation. The controversy surrounding the publication of the book reverberates to the present day.In the introduction to this Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Edition, Edward O. Wilson shows how research in human genetics and neuroscience has strengthened the case for a biological understanding of human nature. Human sociobiology, now often called evolutionary psychology, has in the last quarter of a century emerged as its own field of study, drawing on theory and data from both biology and the social sciences.For its still fresh and beautifully illustrated descriptions of animal societies, and its importance as a crucial step forward in the understanding of human beings, this anniversary edition of Sociobiology: The New Synthesis will be welcomed by a new generation of students and scholars in all branches of learning.
Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body
Armand Marie Leroi - 2003
This elegant, humane, and engaging book "captures what we know of the development of what makes us human" (Nature).Visit Armand Marie Leroi on the web: http: //armandleroi.com/index.htmlStepping effortlessly from myth to cutting-edge science,
The Epigenetics Revolution
Nessa Carey - 2011
The Human Genome Project finished sequencing human DNA. It seemed it was only a matter of time until we had all the answers to the secrets of life on this planet. The cutting-edge of biology, however, is telling us that we still don't even know all of the questions. How is it that, despite each cell in your body carrying exactly the same DNA, you don't have teeth growing out of your eyeballs or toenails on your liver? How is it that identical twins share exactly the same DNA and yet can exhibit dramatic differences in the way that they live and grow? It turns out that cells read the genetic code in DNA more like a script to be interpreted than a mould that replicates the same result each time. This is epigenetics and it's the fastest-moving field in biology today. The Epigenetics Revolution traces the thrilling path this discipline has taken over the last twenty years. Biologist Nessa Carey deftly explains such diverse phenomena as how queen bees and ants control their colonies, why tortoiseshell cats are always female, why some plants need a period of cold before they can flower, why we age, develop disease and become addicted to drugs, and much more. Most excitingly, Carey reveals the amazing possibilities for humankind that epigenetics offers for us all - and in the surprisingly near future.
Parasite Rex: Inside the Bizarre World of Nature's Most Dangerous Creatures
Carl Zimmer - 2000
Now award-winning writer Carl Zimmer takes us on a fantastic voyage into the secret parasite universe we actually live in but haven't recognized. He reveals not only that parasites are the most successful life-forms on Earth, but that they triggered the development of sex, shape ecosystems, and have driven the engine of evolution. In mapping the parasite universe, Zimmer makes the astonishing observation that most species are parasites, and that almost every animal, including humans, will at one time or another become the home of a parasite. Zimmer shows how highly evolved parasites are and describes the frightening and amazing ingenuity these commando invaders use to devour their hosts from the inside and control their behavior. The sinister Sacculina carcini makes its home in an unlucky crab and proceeds to eat everything but what the crab needs to put food in its mouth, which Sacculina then consumes. When Sacculina finally reproduces, it places its young precisely where the crab would nurture its own progeny, and then has the crab nurture the foster family members. Single-celled Toxoplasma gondi has an even more insidious role, for it can invade the human brain. There it makes men distrustful and less willing to submit to social mores. Women become more outgoing and warm-hearted. Why would a parasite cause these particular personality changes? It seems Toxoplasma wants its host to be less afraid, to be more prone to danger and a violent end -- so that, in the carnage, it will be able to move on to another host. From the steamy jungles of Costa Rica to the fetid parasite heaven of rebel-held southern Sudan, Zimmer tracks the genius of parasitic life and its impact on humanity. We hosts have developed remarkable defenses against the indomitable parasite: our mighty immune system, our culturally enforced habit of keeping clean, and, perhaps most intriguingly, sex. But this is not merely a book about the evil power of parasitism and how we must defend against it. On the contrary, Zimmer concludes that humankind itself is a new kind of parasite, one that preys on the entire Earth. If we are to achieve the sophistication of the parasites on display here in vivid detail, if we are to promote the flourishing of life in all its diversity as they do, we must learn the ways nature lives with itself, the laws of Parasite Rex.