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The Touchstone of Life: Molecular…

The Touchstone of Life: Molecular Information, Cell Communication, and the…

by Werner R. Loewenstein

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0195140575, Paperback)

"If there were something like a guidebook for living creatures, I think the first line would read like a biblical commandment: Make thy information larger. And next would come the guidelines for colonizing, in good imperialist fashion, the biggest chunk of negative entropy around."

Werner Loewenstein, a cell biologist at Woods Hole Biological Laboratories, has written a remarkably engaging book tying together information theory, thermodynamics, molecular biology, and the structure of cells. The subject is not one to which the human brain is well suited, but with Loewenstein's guidance you may get a better grasp on concepts like entropy than you've ever had before.

Loewenstein describes life as a circus: "Flowing in from the cosmos, information loops back onto itself to produce the circular information complex we call Life.... To those who are inside the Circus, it will always seem the greatest show on Earth, though I can't speak for the One who is outside it."

The Touchstone of Life covers some of the ground surveyed in Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach and Kauffman's At Home in the Universe, but with an even stronger sense of the physical realities constraining the "Circus." It should prove fascinating for anyone interested in biology, consciousness, physics, or the future of computing. --Mary Ellen Curtin

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:52 -0400)

No one can escape a sense of wonder when looking at an organism from within. From the humblest amoeba to man, from the smallest cell organelle to the amazing human brain, life presents us with example after example of highly ordered cellular matter, precisely organized and shaped to performcoordinated functions. But where does this order spring from? How does a living organism manage to do what nonliving things cannot do--bring forth and maintain all that order against the unrelenting, disordering pressures of the universe? In The Touchstone of Life, world-renowned biophysicist Werner Loewenstein seeks answers to these ancient riddles by applying information theory to recent discoveries in molecular biology. Taking us into a fascinating microscopic world, he lays bare an all-pervading communication network insideand between our cells--a web of extraordinary beauty, where molecular information flows in gracefully interlaced circles. Loewenstein then takes us on an exhilarating journey along that web and we meet its leading actors, the macromolecules, and see how they extract order out of the erratic quantumworld; and through the powerful lens of information theory, we are let in on their trick, the most dazzling of magician's acts, whereby they steal form out of formlessness. The Touchstone of Life flashes with fresh insights into the mystery of life. Boldly straddling the line between biology and physics, the book offers a breathtaking view of that hidden world where molecular information turns the wheels of life. Loewenstein makes these complex scientificsubjects lucid and fascinating, as he sheds light on the most fundamental aspects of our existence.… (more)

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