9780231126540

The Origins of Life and the Universe

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780231126540

  • ISBN10:

    0231126549

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2003-05-01
  • Publisher: Columbia Univ Pr

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Summary

The Origins of Life and the Universeis the culmination of a university science professor's search for understanding and is based on his experiences teaching the fundamental issues of physics, chemistry, and biology in the classroom. What is life? Where did it come from? How can understanding the origins of life on Earth help us understand the origins of the universe, and vice versa? These are questions that have occupied us all. This is a book, then, about the beginning of things -- of the universe, matter, stars, and planetary systems, and finally, of life itself -- topics of profound interest that are rarely considered together. After surveying prescientific accounts of the origins of life, the book examines the concepts of modern physics and cosmology, in particular the two pillars of modern physics, relativity and quantum theory, and how they can be applied to the Big Bang model of the creation of the universe. The author then considers molecular genetics and DNA, the famed building block of life. In addition to assessing various hypotheses concerning the appearance of the first bacterial cells and their evolution into more complex eukaryotic cells, this section explains how "protocells" may have started a kind of integrated metabolism and how horizontal gene transfer may have speeded up evolution. Finally, the book discusses the possibility that life did not originate on planet Earth but first appeared on other solar planets, or perhaps in other star systems. How would such a possibility affect our understanding of the meaning of life, or of its ultimate fate in the universe? The book ends as it begins, with profound questions and penetrating answers, a state-of-the-art guide to unlocking the scientific mysteries of life and matter.

Table of Contents

Preface x
Introduction 1(1)
The Meaning of Science 2(4)
What Is Life? 6(2)
Some Origins Models Before Science 8(179)
CHAPTER 1 Foundations of the Universe
13(29)
What Is in the Universe?
14(2)
Physics Holds One of the Clues to the Origins: Relativity
16 (10)
The Next Clue: Quantum Physics
26 (11)
Forces of Nature and Elementary Particles
37 (4)
Conclusions
41(1)
CHAPTER 2 Building a Universe
42(20)
Cosmology: The Big Bang Model
42 (9)
The Genesis of Stars and Planets
51 (9)
Conclusions
60(2)
CHAPTER 3 Life as it Is Today
62(30)
The Universal Blueprint
63(9)
Variations in the Blueprint
72 (6)
Metabolism and Energy Transactions
78(7)
Life That Depends on Simple Molecules Only
85 (2)
The Cell's Envelope and Its Skeleton
87 (2)
Conclusions
89(3)
CHAPTER 4 Prebiotic Earth: First Organic Compounds and First Informational Molecules
92(25)
Organic Compounds from Earth's Putative Primitive Atmosphere
94(5)
Space Chemistry and the Origins of Life
99 (3)
Ocean Floor Chemistry
102(2)
Proteins and Metabolism First: The Iron-Sulfur World
104 (8)
Genetic Information First: The RNA World
112 (4)
Conclusions
116(1)
CHAPTER 5 Life on Its Way
117(37)
Lessons from Bacteriophages
118(2)
Quasispecies and Hypercycles
120(5)
Origin of the Genetic Code: From the RNA World to Proteins
125(6)
Protocells and the Emergence of the DNA World
131 (3)
First DNA-Containing Cells and Their Evolution
134 (5)
Paths of Fast Evolution
139 (2)
First Eukaryotes
141(11)
Conclusions
152(2)
CHAPTER 6 Has Life Originated Elsewhere and Will It End?
154(21)
Panspermia
155(3)
Life Elsewhere in the Solar System?
158 (8)
Discontent with Origins Models
166(4)
The End of the Universe, the End of Life
170 (1)
Conclusions
171(4)
APPENDIX 1 A Graphic Representation of Special Relativity
175 (2)
APPENDIX 2 More on Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle
177 (2)
APPENDIX 3 How Do We Know the Age of the Universe?
179 (2)
APPENDIX 4 Eric Chaisson's View of Cosmic Evolution
181(2)
APPENDIX 5 Do the Universe and Life Have a Purpose and a Designer?
183(4)
Notes 187(8)
Glossary 195(4)
Notable Scientists 199 (2)
Bibliography 201(4)
Index 205

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