Creation: How Science Is Reinventing Life Itself

Creation: How Science Is Reinventing Life Itself

4.4 5
by Adam Rutherford
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

What is life?
 
Humans have been asking this question for thou­sands of years. But as technology has advanced and our understanding of biology has deepened, the answer has evolved. For decades, scientists have been exploring the limits of nature by modifying and manipulating DNA, cells and whole organisms to create new ones that could never

See more details below

Overview

What is life?
 
Humans have been asking this question for thou­sands of years. But as technology has advanced and our understanding of biology has deepened, the answer has evolved. For decades, scientists have been exploring the limits of nature by modifying and manipulating DNA, cells and whole organisms to create new ones that could never have existed on their own.
 
In Creation, science writer Adam Rutherford explains how we are now radically exceeding the boundaries of evolution and engineering entirely novel creatures—from goats that produce spider silk in their milk to bacteria that excrete diesel to genetic circuits that identify and destroy cancer cells. As strange as some of these creations may sound, this new, synthetic biology is helping scientists develop radical solutions to some of the world’s most pressing crises—from food shortages to pandemic disease to climate change—and is paving the way for inventions once relegated to science fiction.
 
Meanwhile, these advances are shedding new light on the biggest mystery of all—how did life begin? We know that every creature on Earth came from a single cell, sparked into existence four billion years ago. And as we come closer and closer to understanding the ancient root that connects all living things, we may finally be able to achieve a second genesis—the creation of new life where none existed before.
 
Creation takes us on a journey four billion years in the making—from the very first cell to the ground-breaking biological inventions that will shape the future of our planet.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Combining superb science writing with a refreshing wit, Rutherford does an excellent job of bringing genomics and synthetic biology to life in this accessible overview of the past and future of the fields. In the first half, the Nature magazine editor describes what we know about cellular biology, while the second portion explores where and how we might apply our growing knowledge base in the future. He argues that the theory of evolution does not aim to explain the origin of life, but he also insists that in order to know where we’re going, we have to know where we’re from, and one of the best ways to do that is to trace evolution at the cellular level: “In every cell is a perfect unbroken chain that stretches inevitably back... to one single entity, which we call the Last Universal Common Ancestor.” His elucidations of this concept and others are well-crafted and clear enough for lay readers to easily grasp his meaning. Most compellingly, he argues that increased biological research and experimentation might herald a shift that would rival the Industrial Revolution in terms of social change. There’s much to savor here—even in the footnotes. Agent: P.J. Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (June 13)
Kirkus Reviews
The day is nearly here when scientists will create the first purely synthetic life. This prediction turns up regularly, but British science writer and Nature editor Rutherford insists that the time is ripe, and he makes his case with contagious enthusiasm. Following requirements of the genre, the author delivers a lucid history of the Earth and the appearance of life 3.8 billion years ago--so quickly after the planet's cooling that it may be a natural process. To give readers an idea of the daunting challenges that scientists face, Rutherford explains life's processes: DNA, an immense helical molecule in every cell's nucleus, provides information in the form of genes, small triplets of molecules on the helix; RNA copies the information; cell structures called ribosomes make proteins from the RNA template. Other structures, called mitochondria, provide energy. A protective membrane surrounds every cell, separating it from the world outside. This sounds complex, but, provided scientists manipulate DNA properly, startling things happen, and Rutherford devotes the second half of his book to their efforts. In 2010 researchers synthesized all 517 genes of a tiny bacteria, inserted them into a cell, and they worked. Goats given a certain spider gene produce milk filled with spider silk. Readers may roll their eyes to learn of cells programmed to seek out and kill cancers (another claim that appears regularly), but they will be impressed by bacteria that can act as a photographic film, consume plastic waste or manufacture bricks. While it is unlikely that scientists will synthesize a human in the near future, genuinely amazing biology is in the works, and Rutherford delivers a fascinating overview.
From the Publisher
“Combining superb science writing with a refreshing wit, Rutherford does an excellent job of bringing genomics and synthetic biology to life.”

Publishers Weekly 

“Rutherford delivers a timely and important dispatch from the field tilled by James Watson and Francis Crick…Creation shows that their revolution isn’t slowing down.”

The Los Angeles Times

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781617230059
Publisher:
Current Hardcover
Publication date:
06/13/2013
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

ADAM RUTHERFORD is a science writer and broadcaster. He is an editor at Nature, writes for the Guardian and regularly presents programs for BBC Radio 4 in the UK. He has also presented several acclaimed science series for BBC television, including the award winning three-part series The Cell. A geneticist by training, he has a PhD from University College London.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >