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University of California Press
Life's Origin: The Beginnings of Biological Evolution / Edition 1

Life's Origin: The Beginnings of Biological Evolution / Edition 1

by J. William Schopf
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Life's Origin takes us on an expansive tour of life's beginnings from the formation, literally billions of years ago, of a small cluster of life-generating chemical elements. The book explains the nonbiologic accumulation in the primordial oceans of small, simple, organic compounds; the linking of these into larger, more complicated molecules; the rise of gene-carrying chemicals; and finally, the advent of living cells more than 3.5 billion years ago. Presented in nontechnical language and including a valuable glossary of scientific terms, Life's Origin gives a state-of-the-art encapsulation of the fascinating work now being done as scientists begin to characterize life as the outcome of the evolution of cosmic matter.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520233904
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 10/21/2002
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)
Lexile: 1460L (what's this?)

About the Author

J. William Schopf is Professor of Paleobiology and Director of the IGPP Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is author of Cradle of Life: The Discovery of Earth's Earliest Fossils (1999) and Missing Fossils: Solution to the Mystery of Photosynthesis (1998), and has edited several other volumes.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The What, When, and How of Life's Beginnings1
1.Historical Understanding of Life's Beginnings7
What Is Life?7
Beliefs and Hypotheses on the Origin of Life12
Chemical Evolution15
Personal Reminiscences20
Cosmological Evolution and the Origin of Life25
The Earth-Moon System29
Exploration of the Solar System35
Life beyond the Solar System37
2.From Big Bang to Primordial Planet: Setting the Stage for the Origin of Life46
Origin of the Biogenic Elements48
Origin of the Solar System50
Further Reading75
3.Formation of the Building Blocks of Life78
The Heterotrophic Origin of Life81
Prebiotic Synthesis of Amino Acids84
Prebiotic Synthesis of Nucleic Acid Bases92
Prebiotic Synthesis of Sugars98
Hydrothermal Vents and the Origin of Life100
Extraterrestrial Organic Compounds and Prebiotic Evolution103
An Autotrophic Origin of Life?105
Have Too Many Cooks Spoiled the Soup?107
4.From Building Blocks to the Polymers of Life113
The Biopolymers in the First Life113
The RNA World: The Prebiotic Synthesis of RNA120
The Role of Polypeptides in the Origin of Life126
Further Reading139
5.The Origin of Biological Information140
The RNA World142
What's Wrong with the Molecular Biologist's Dream?150
The Metabolist Argument154
Conclusion and Outlook154
6.When Did Life Begin?158
Evidence from Living Organisms159
Evidence from the Rock Record166
When Was Earth Ready for Life?174
The What and When of Life's Beginnings178
Further Reading178
List of Contributors181

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