Fitness of the Cosmos for Life: Biochemistry and Fine-Tuning

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This highly interdisciplinary book highlights many of the ways in which chemistry plays a crucial role in making life an evolutionary possibility in the universe. Cosmologists and particle physicists have often explored how the observed laws and constants of nature lie within a narrow range that allows complexity and life to evolve and adapt. Here, these anthropic considerations are diversified in a host of new ways to identify the most sensitive features of biochemistry and astrobiology. Celebrating the classic 1913 work of Lawrence J. Henderson, The Fitness of the Environment, this book looks at the delicate balance between chemistry and the ambient conditions in the universe that permit complex chemical networks and structures to exist. It will appeal to a broad range of scientists, academics, and others interested in the origin and existence of life in our universe.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...very interesting discussion...." - Lewis Dartnell, Astrobiology Society of Britain
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521871020
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2007
  • Series: Cambridge Astrobiology Series, #2
  • Pages: 526
  • Product dimensions: 6.85 (w) x 9.72 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

John D. Barrow is Professor of Mathematical Sciences in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge, and Director of the Millennium Mathematics Project. He is the author of The Artful Universe Expanded (Oxford University Press, 2005) and The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless (Cape, 2005), as well as co-editor of Science and Ultimate Reality: Quantum Theory, Cosmology and Complexity (Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Simon Conway Morris is Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology at the Earth Sciences Department, University of Cambridge. He is the author of Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe (Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Stephen J. Freeland is Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. His research focuses on the evolution of the genetic code.

Charles L. Harper, Jr. is an astrophysicist and planetary scientist and serves as Senior Vice President of the John Templeton Foundation. He is co-editor of Science & Ultimate Reality: Quantum Theory, Cosmology and Complexity (Cambridge University Press, 2004).

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Table of Contents

List of contributors     vii
Foreword: The improbability of life   George M. Whitesides     xi
Preface     xxi
Acknowledgments     xxiii
The fitness of "fitness": Henderson in context
Locating "fitness" and L. J. Henderson   Everett Mendelsohn     3
Revisiting The Fitness of the Environment   Owen Gingerich     20
Is fine-tuning remarkable?   John F. Haught     31
Complexity in context: the metaphysical implications of evolutionary theory   Edward T. Oakes     49
Tuning fine-tuning   Ernan McMullin     70
The fitness of the cosmic environment
Fitness and the cosmic environment   Paul C. W. Davies     97
The interconnections between cosmology and life   Mario Livio     114
Chemistry and sensitivity   John D. Barrow     132
Fitness of the cosmos for the origin and evolution of life: from biochemical fine-tuning to the Anthropic Principle   Julian Chela-Flores     151
The fitness of the terrestrial environment
How biofriendly is the universe?   Christian de Duve     169
Tuning into the frequencies of life: a roar of static or a precise signal?   Simon Conway Morris     197
Life on earth: the roleof proteins   Jayanth R. Banavar   Amos Maritan     225
Protein-based life as an emergent property of matter: the nature and biological fitness of the protein folds   Michael J. Denton     256
Could an intelligent alien predict earth's biochemistry?   Stephen J. Freeland     280
Would Venus evolve on Mars? Bioenergetic constraints, allometric trends, and the evolution of life-history invariants   Jeffrey P. Schloss     318
The fitness of the chemical environment
Creating a perspective for comparing   Albert Eschenmoser     349
Fine-tuning and interstellar chemistry   William Klemperer     366
Framing the question of fine-tuning for intermediary metabolism   Eric Smith   Harold J. Morowitz     384
Coarse-tuning in the origin of life?   Guy Ourisson     421
Plausible lipid-like peptides: prebiotic molecular self-assembly in water   Shuguang Zhang     440
Evolution revisited by inorganic chemists   R. J. P. Williams   J. J. R. Frausto da Silva     456
Index     491
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