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 creaturesfrom 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 crisesfrom food shortages to pandemic disease to climate changeand is paving the way for inventions once relegated to science fiction.
Meanwhile, these advances are shedding new light on the biggest mystery of allhow 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 genesisthe creation of new life where none existed before.
Creation takes us on a journey four billion years in the makingfrom the very first cell to the ground-breaking biological inventions that will shape the future of our planet.
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|Age Range:||18 Years|
About 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.
Table of Contents
Part I The Origin of Life
Chapter 1 Begotten, Not Created 11
Chapter 2 Into One 31
Chapter 3 Hell on Earth 61
Chapter 4 What Is Life? 75
Chapter 5 The Origin of the Code 89
Chapter 6 Genesis 111
Part II The Future of Life
Chapter 7 Life, Not as We Know It 135
Chapter 8 Created, Not Begotten 145
Chapter 9 Logic in Life 161
Chapter 10 Remix and Revolution 183
Chapter 11 The Case for Progress 201
Annotated Bibliography 255
What People are Saying About This
“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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
*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.
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!
A little bit deep but fascinating. Expands your thinking about the world and life and yourself.