Creation: How Science Is Reinventing Life Itself

Creation: How Science Is Reinventing Life Itself

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by Adam Rutherford
     
 

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Today’s scientists are radically exceeding the boundaries of evolution and engineering entirely novel creatures. Cutting edge “synthetic biology” may lead to solutions to some of the world’s most pressing crises and pave the way for inventions once relegated to science fiction.

Meanwhile, these advances are

Overview

Today’s scientists are radically exceeding the boundaries of evolution and engineering entirely novel creatures. Cutting edge “synthetic biology” may lead to solutions to some of the world’s most pressing crises and pave 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? As we come closer and closer to understanding the ancient root that connects all living things, Adam Rutherford shows how we may finally be able to achieve the creation of new life where none existed before.

Editorial Reviews

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

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781617230110
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/27/2014
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
318,254
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Rutherford tells the epic history of life on Earth and eloquently argues the case for embracing technology that allows us to become biological designers.”
—ALICE ROBERTS, broadcaster for the BBC, professor of public engagement in science at the University of Birmingham
 
“Just as the last century was regarded as the golden age of physics, so it is becoming increasingly clear that the twenty-first is the century of biology. This book is the perfect ‘story so far.’”
—JIM AL-KHALILI, broadcaster for the BBC, professor of physics at the University of Surrey, and author of Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics
 
“A superbly written explanation of how the origin of life on Earth became a question for science and what the answer might be.”
—BRIAN COX, broadcaster for the BBC, professor of physics at the University of Manchester, and author of Why Does E=mc²?
 
“Suddenly science is close to understanding the Indian rope trick by which life emerged from non-life four billion years ago. Adam Rutherford has written an engaging account of both the mystery and its impending resolution; he has also provided a fascinating glimpse of the impending birth of a new, synthetic biology.”
—MATT RIDLEY,author of Genome
 
“A witty, engaging and eye-opening explanation of the basic units of life, right back to our com­mon ancestors and on to their incredible synthetic future. The mark of a really good science book, it shows that the questions we still have are just as exciting as the answers we already know.”
—DARA Ó BRIAIN,comedian

“A crisp, beguiling and rigorous book…”
Los Angeles Times
 
“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.... There’s much to savor here—even in the footnotes.” 
Publishers Weekly (starred)

“Rutherford makes his case with contagious enthusiasm… Genuinely amazing biology is in the works, and Rutherford delivers a fascinating overview.”
Kirkus (starred)
 
“Engaging… May it augur many more topdrawer science books by Rutherford.”
Booklist (starred)
 
"Prepare to be astounded. There are moments when this book is so gripping it reads like a thriller."
The Mail on Sunday (UK)

"Suspenseful, erudite and thrilling."
The Prospect (UK)

"One of the most eloquent and genuinely thoughtful books on science over the past decade."
The Observer (UK)

"Fascinating ... The extraordinary science and his argument are worth every reader's scrutiny."
The Sunday Telegraph (UK)

Meet the Author

Adam Rutherford is an editor at Nature and presents programs for BBC Radio and television. A geneticist by training, he has a Ph.D. from University College London.

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Creation: How Science is Reinventing Life Itself 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
popscipopulizer More than 1 year ago
*A full executive summary of this book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Tuesday, July 9, 2013. As the blueprint of all that lives, DNA may be said to be the key to understanding life itself. It is incredible to think, then, that the structure of DNA was only discovered some 60 years ago (thanks especially to the work of James Watson and Francis Crick). Since that time, many significant advances in genetics have been made--including the deciphering of the genomes of numerous species (including our own); and, even more impressively, the successful manipulation of the genetic code to introduce the features of one species to another (for example, having a goat produce spider's silk out of its milk). As impressive as these feats are, though, they are but the beginning of what promises to come from the study of genetics. Indeed, compared with other sciences, such as physics and chemistry, genetics is still in its infancy, and we can be assured that the most significant discoveries and applications are yet to come. Even now, geneticists are making significant progress in uncovering the origin of life--meaning answering the question of just how life may have sprung out of lifeless chemistry--and are also making advancements in turning genetic manipulation into a standardized engineering science that is capable of churning out technological solutions in everything from food production to energy to medicine (a field that has been dubbed `synthetic biology'). It is these recent advances in genetics that are the main topic of Creation: How Science is Reinveinting Life Itself by science writer Adam Rutherford. Rutherford does a very good job of covering some of the most significant recent advances in genetics, and of explaining the science behind it. The author also does well to capture the promise of the recent advances, while at the same time acknowledging the significant obstacles that stand in the way of future progress. The offering is certainly more readable than George Church's latest book Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves--to which this book will rightly be compared. However, Rutherford (despite having a solid background in biology himself) does not have quite the insider's perspective that someone like Church does, which is the only drawback I see here. All in all a very good popular science book on a very important topic. A full executive summary of the book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Tuesday, July 9. A podcast discussion of the book will be available shortly thereafter.
blogbookz More than 1 year ago
The first part of this book introduces the reader to the field of genetics. No science background is needed to read the book - it starts with basic concepts of biology and incrementally introduces more advanced aspects of cells, proteins, viruses, and DNA. The author discusses the scientific concepts in a conversational manner, with many witty and insightful observations that make the book very readable. By the end of the first part, it was really impressive to see how many concepts in cellular biology had been covered. I felt like I had achieved a good basis for understanding articles about genetic engineering. The second part of the book delves into the current projects in genetics, from approaches to fighting cancer, to modifying food and agricultural crops, to technologies for astronauts to use. Had I read a book like this before going to college, I would have gone into the field of cellular biology. The book highlights the ways that the work in this field is critical for solving challenges in health, energy, and the environment. Many discoveries are happening through the convergence of science and engineering using the tools of synthetic biology. The book explains how cells can be designed and bred to become part of an arsenal of biological components and tools. The various cellular assemblages suggest routes for fighting disease, purifying environmental pollution, and finding new sources of energy. I see this book as instrumental to anyone that has to deal with companies that are in the healthcare/agriculture/pharmaceutical spaces. The book is helpful for understanding day to day science in the news, including concerns about genetic engineering of food, viruses, technologies, patents, etc - the reader will be in a much better place to evaluate the stories coming across the wire. These new technologies for genetic manipulation are accessible and found in many labs and schools. Groups of undergraduate students are now on teams competing to design and grow new types of cells. I am definitely going to pass this book along to my son to give him a vision of where things are going (I was surprised by how far the science has already come). Enjoy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jackvan More than 1 year ago
A little bit deep but fascinating. Expands your thinking about the world and life and yourself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago