Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos

Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos

by Peter M. Hoffmann

Hardcover

$27.99
View All Available Formats & Editions
Eligible for FREE SHIPPING
  • Want it by Thursday, October 18  Order now and choose Expedited Shipping during checkout.

Overview

Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos by Peter M. Hoffmann

Life is an enduring mystery. Yet, science tells us that living beings are merely sophisticated structures of lifeless molecules. If this view is correct, where do the seemingly purposeful motions of cells and organisms originate? In Life's Ratchet, physicist Peter M. Hoffmann locates the answer to this age-old question at the nanoscale.

Below the calm, ordered exterior of a living organism lies microscopic chaos, or what Hoffmann calls the molecular storm—specialized molecules immersed in a whirlwind of colliding water molecules. Our cells are filled with molecular machines, which, like tiny ratchets, transform random motion into ordered activity, and create the “purpose” that is the hallmark of life. Tiny electrical motors turn electrical voltage into motion, nanoscale factories custom-build other molecular machines, and mechanical machines twist, untwist, separate and package strands of DNA. The cell is like a city—an unfathomable, complex collection of molecular workers working together to create something greater than themselves.

Life, Hoffman argues, emerges from the random motions of atoms filtered through these sophisticated structures of our evolved machinery. We are agglomerations of interacting nanoscale machines more amazing than anything in science fiction. Rather than relying on some mysterious “life force” to drive them—as people believed for centuries—life's ratchets harness instead the second law of thermodynamics and the disorder of the molecular storm.

Grounded in Hoffmann's own cutting-edge research, Life's Ratchet reveals the incredible findings of modern nanotechnology to tell the story of how the noisy world of atoms gives rise to life itself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465022533
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 10/30/2012
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 662,095
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Peter M. Hoffmann is a professor of physics and materials science at Wayne State University in Michigan and the founder and director of the university's Biomedical Physics program. He lives in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan.

Table of Contents

Introduction: What Is Life? 1

1 The Life Force 9

2 Chance and Necessity 45

3 The Entropy of a Late-Night Robber 67

4 On a Very Small Scale 89

5 Maxwell's Demon and Feynman's Ratchet 125

6 The Mystery of Life 143

7 Twist and Route 169

8 The Watch and the Ribosome 213

9 Making a Living 229

Epilogue: Life, the Universe, and Everything 243

Glossary 247

Sources 255

Suggested Reading 259

Acknowledgments 263

Index 265

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews