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Wetware: A Computer in Every Living Cell by…
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Wetware: A Computer in Every Living Cell (2009)

by Dennis Bray

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Describes the biochemical processes in living cells as fluid circuits, somewhat like computer hardware, only flexible and able to change in response to changes in environment, and carrying information, somewhat like computer software. These molecular circuits carry the chemical data of life.
  CLlibrarystudent | Dec 9, 2016 |
The main, unifying purpose of this book is to demonstrate that biology can most parsimoniously be explained as a series of computations. These aren't the computations we are used to with our PCs and Macs, but instead a fuzzier, less accurate version, which garners its un-bridled power via the sheer volume of computational units involved, and the seemingly infinite interactions and variability between them. From the ways that genes, RNA and proteins interact within the cell, to the ways that cells communicate in simple bacterial cultures or animal and plant organs, all the way up to the human brain, molecular computations are ubiquitous.

The arguments of the book are compelling, with vast amounts of evidence from many fields brought to bear to demonstrate the main thesis. Wetware is largely a very well structured, coherent book, full of rich detail, occasionally fun and inventive sidelines, and an unwavering sense of authority. Occasionally there are sections that seem somewhat superfluous, especially those involving computer or robotic simulations of nature. But on the whole the content seems very tight and although a small increase in pointers to the overall landscape would have been useful, the length and pace of this shortish book seemed just about right. It also benefits from occasionally gloriously written sections of sparkling narrative (such as on page 154 where we are taken to the first moments of life in poetic, intensely imaginative detail).

It is not the easiest science book to read in the world, though. It is heavily and unnecessarily laden with jargon, and at times seems somewhat too detailed for the point required. Much of the book is very heavy going, but perhaps this is unavoidable given the intricate molecular machinery under description. But this difficult journey is very well worthwhile because the scientific viewpoint is relatively novel, highly profound and very far-reaching. ( )
1 vote RachDan | Jan 1, 2010 |
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Book description
Describes the biochemical processes in living cells as fluid circuits, somewhat like computer hardware, only flexible and able to change in response to changes in environment, and carrying information, somewhat like computer software. These molecular circuits carry the chemical data of life.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0300141734, Hardcover)

How does a single-cell creature, such as an amoeba, lead such a sophisticated life? How does it hunt living prey, respond to lights, sounds, and smells, and display complex sequences of movements without the benefit of a nervous system? This book offers a startling and original answer.

In clear, jargon-free language, Dennis Bray taps the findings of the new discipline of systems biology to show that the internal chemistry of living cells is a form of computation. Cells are built out of molecular circuits that perform logical operations, as electronic devices do, but with unique properties. Bray argues that the computational juice of cells provides the basis of all the distinctive properties of living systems: it allows organisms to embody in their internal structure an image of the world, and this accounts for their adaptability, responsiveness, and intelligence.

In Wetware, Bray offers imaginative, wide-ranging and perceptive critiques of robotics and complexity theory, as well as many entertaining and telling anecdotes. For the general reader, the practicing scientist, and all others with an interest in the nature of life, the book is an exciting portal to some of biology’s latest discoveries and ideas.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:48 -0400)

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Yale University Press

2 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300141734, 0300167849

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