What Is Life?

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2012-03-26
  • Publisher: Cambridge Univ Pr

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Nobel laureate Erwin Schrödinger's What is Life? is one of the great science classics of the twentieth century. It was written for the layman, but proved to be one of the spurs to the birth of molecular biology and the subsequent discovery of DNA. What is Life? appears here together with Mind and Matter, his essay investigating a relationship which has eluded and puzzled philosophers since the earliest times. Brought together with these two classics are Schrödinger's autobiographical sketches, which offer a fascinating account of his life as a background to his scientific writings.

Table of Contents

What is Life?
Prefacep. 1
The Classical Physicist's Approach to the Subjectp. 3
The general character and the purpose of the investigation
Statistical physics. The fundamental difference in structure
The naive physicist's approach to the subject
Why are the atoms so small?
The working of an organism requires exact physical laws
Physical laws rest on atomic statistics and are therefore only approximate
Their precision is based on the large number of atoms intervening, 1st example (paramagnetism)
2nd example (Brownian movement, diffusion)
3rd example (limits of accuracy of measuring)
The √n rule
The Hereditary Mechanismp. 19
The classical physicist's expectation, far from being trivial, is wrong
The hereditary code-script (chromosomes)
Growth of the body by cell division (mitosis)
In mitosis every chromosome is duplicated
Reductive division (meiosis) and fertilization (syngamy)
Haploid individuals
The outstanding relevance of the reductive division
Crossing-over. Location of properties
Maximum size of a gene
Small numbers
Mutationsp. 32
'Jump-like' mutations - the working-ground of natural selection
They breed true, i.e. they are perfectly inherited
Localization. Recessivity and Dominance
Introducing some technical language
The harmful effect of close-breeding
General and historical remarks
The necessity of mutation being a rare event
Mutations induced by X-rays
First law. Mutation is a single event
Second law. Localization of the event
The Quantum
Mechanical Evidencep. 46
Permanence unexplainable by classical physics
Explicable by quantum theory
Quantum theory - discrete states -quantum jumps
Their stability dependent on temperature
Mathematical interlude
First amendment
Second amendment
Delbrück's Model Discussed and Testedp. 56
The general picture of the hereditary substance
The uniqueness of the picture
Some traditional misconceptions
Different 'states' of matter
The distinction that really matters
The aperiodic solid
The variety of contents compressed in the miniature code
Comparison with facts: degree of stability; discontinuity of mutations
Stability of naturally selected genes
The sometimes lower stability of mutants
Temperature influences unstable genes less than stable ones
How X-rays produce mutation
Their efficiency does not depend on spontaneous mutability
Reversible mutations
Order, Disorder and Entropyp. 67
A remarkable general conclusion from the model
Order based on order
Living matter evades the decay to equilibrium
It feeds on 'negative entropy'
What is entropy?
The statistical meaning of entropy
Organization maintained by extracting 'order' from the environment
Is Life Based on the Laws of Physics? 76
New laws to be expected in the organism
Reviewing the biological situation
Summarizing the physical situation
The striking contrast
Two ways of producing orderliness
The new principle is not alien to physics
The motion of a clock
Clockwork after all statistical
Nernst's Theorem
The pendulum clock is virtually at zero temperature
The relation between clockwork and organism
Epilogue. On Determinism and Free Will 86
Mind and Matter
The Physical Basis of Consciousnessp. 93
The problem
A tentative answer
The Future of Understandingp. 103
A biological blind alley?
The apparent gloom of Darwinism
Behaviour influences selection
Feigned Lamarckism
Genetic fixation of habits and skills
Dangers to intellectual evolution
The Principle of Objectivationp. 117
the arithmetical paradox: the oneness of mindp. 128
Science and Religionp. 140
The Mystery of the Sensual Qualities I53
Autobiographical Sketches 165
Translated by Schrödinger's granddaughter Verena
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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