In the Beat of a Heart: Life, Energy, and the Unity of Nature

Overview

For centuries, scientists have dreamt of discovering an underlying unity to nature. Science now offers powerful explanations for both the dazzling diversity and striking similarities seen in the living world. Life is complicated. It is truly the “entangled bank” that Charles Darwin described. But scientists are now discovering that energy is the unifying force that joins all life on Earth. Visionary biologists have advanced a new theory that explains how the natural world—from the tiniest amoeba to the greatest ...
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Overview

For centuries, scientists have dreamt of discovering an underlying unity to nature. Science now offers powerful explanations for both the dazzling diversity and striking similarities seen in the living world. Life is complicated. It is truly the “entangled bank” that Charles Darwin described. But scientists are now discovering that energy is the unifying force that joins all life on Earth. Visionary biologists have advanced a new theory that explains how the natural world—from the tiniest amoeba to the greatest rain forest—is constructed, providing a fresh perspective on the essential interconnectivity of living systems. This revolutionary theory explains a variety of phenomena—helping us understand why a shrew eats its bodyweight in food each day, why a mammal’s heart beats about 1 billion times in its lifetime, why there are no trees as tall as the Eiffel Tower, and why more species live at the Earth’s equator than at its poles. By looking at how living things use energy, we can answer these and myriad other intriguing questions. In the Beat of a Heart combines biography, history, science and nature writing to capture the exciting advances— and the people who are making them—that are triggering a revolution as potentially important to biology as Newton’s insights were to physics.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Why are there 700 species of North American birds instead of seven? Why do the tropics have more species than the polar regions? If different species-whether tree, bear, or bacterium-are subject to the same physical laws, is there a general unified theory of biology? Freelance science writer Whitfield tackles these questions by exploring the role of energy and metabolism as the unifying force in nature. Writing in an engaging style, he describes the work and lives of key scientists whose often controversial ideas also help contribute answers. While similar to Kevin J. Gaston and Tim M. Blackburn's Pattern and Process in Macroecology, which is suitable for a more academic audience, Whitfield's book does not overwhelm the reader with innumerable scientific studies and details. Instead, it gives a glimpse of the history and science behind the search for a new theory explaining the simplicity and complexity of life. Recommended for all libraries.-Teresa U. Berry, Univ. of Tennessee Libs., Knoxville Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780309096812
  • Publisher: National Academies Press
  • Publication date: 8/24/2006
  • Pages: 278
  • Sales rank: 1,493,512
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Prologue : "I have taken to mathematics" 1
2 The slow fire 29
3 Moving the line 51
4 Searching for similarity 67
5 Networking 87
6 The pace of life 121
7 Seeing the forest for the trees 145
8 The cult of Santa Rosalia 171
9 Humboldt's gifts 205
10 A Newton of the grass blade? 231
11 Epilogue : "the great desideratum" 249
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