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What is Life?: How Chemistry Becomes Biology Paperback – 23 Jan 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; Reprint edition (23 Jan. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199687773
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199687770
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 1.5 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 74,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

A stimulating and thought-provoking read, [which] provides a sound chemical framework for considering the various theories and strands of research directed towards understanding the ultimate question - what is life? (Chemistry World)

I don't pretend to understand the chemistry - but by using analogies about boulders rolling down hills, and cars driving up them, Pross does a good job of explaining the principle. (Brandon Robshaw, Independent on Sunday)

Review from previous edition Addy Pross's growing sense of excitement is palpable in this lucid, thoughtful, and accessible exploration of the very foundations of that most exquisite and extraordinary property of matter, life. (Peter Atkins)

Strikingly, [Pross] demonstrates that Darwinian evolution is the biological expression of a deeper and more fundamental chemical principle: the whole story from replicating molecules to complex life is one continuous coherent chemical process governed by a simple definable principle. (GrrlScientist blog)

A thoughtful and readable manifesto Pross gets high marks for his effort to demystify genesis and put chemistry in its place. (Franklin M. Harold, Microbe, Volume 8 Number 3)

A lively, intellectually stimulating examination of profound scientific and philosophic questions. It provides an intriguing and possibly plausible way to think about life and its origins. It provides much food for constructive thought. (Chemical and Engineering News)

A fascinating and insightful read. It has utility and enjoyment value to readers from a wide variety of backgrounds. Definitely food for thought. (Niles Lehman, Trends in Evolutionary Biology)

By formulating a new stability kind in nature, Addy Pross has uncovered the chemical roots of Darwinian theory, thereby opening a novel route connecting biology to chemistry and physics. This book is more than worth reading - it stirs the readers mind and paves the way toward the birth of further outstanding ideas. (Ada Yonath, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry)

[What is Life?] is a stimulating and thought-provoking read, and provides a sound chemical framework for considering the various theories and strands of research directed towards understanding the ultimate question - what is life? (Chemistry World)

About the Author

Addy Pross received a Ph.D in Organic Chemistry from Sydney University in 1970. He is currently a Professor of Chemistry at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, and a recognized authority in the area of chemical reactivity to which he contributed with the highly cited and acclaimed Pross-Shaik model of chemical reactivity. He has held visiting positions in many universities word-wide, including the University of Lund, Stanford University, Rutgers University, University of California at Irvine, University of Padova, the Australian National University Canberra, and Sydney University. He has served on the editorial board of chemical and biological journals and a variety of academic management boards. In recent years he has directed his attention to the biological arena where he has applied his expertise in chemical reactivity to the Origin of Life problem and the broader question of the problematic chemistry-biology interface.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By still searching TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 8 Feb. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
In 1944 Erwin Schrodinger published a little book with the title, `What is Life?' Though, obviously not the first to pose this question, it is purported to have provided at least part of the inspiration to those, such as Watson and Crick, who would later go some way to answering it.

Addy Pross, though using the same title, adds the sub-title, `How Chemistry Becomes Biology' and this is quite odd as he spends most of this very slim book attempting to persuade the reader of exactly the opposite; i.e. that biology is simply a sub set of chemistry, or at least its natural extension. His justification for this curious and, I imagine irritating - at least to biologists, strangely naïve claim is his depiction of the transformation from non-living to living matter as a two stage process the first of which, the abiological phase, which is governed, principally, according to the established laws of chemistry, results from the autocatalytic replication of organic molecules such as RNA resulting in replicating networks or primitive forms of embryonic proto-life. The second, biological, phase is governed by the `rules' of evolution as elucidated by Darwin leading to an increase in organic complexity and the biodiversity we see today.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 5 May 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have previously read (or attempted to read!) "What is life?" and "The Rainbow and the Worm" - both of which address the same question ("What is Life?" being the original).

This book falls in between the two - it is interesting to see a proposal for how life ("localised anti-entropy machines" according to some) can be explained in terms of physics and chemistry. The book is occasionally a little heavy-going, but does provide a thorough and detailed (at least, it seemed detailed to me!) account.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By penname on 21 July 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although the pace of writing might be described by more impatient readers as slow, with frequent repetitions and arguably unnecessay analogies, the overall result is an secure, unambiguous account of a fascinating, very plausible and so tantalisingly close-to-complete theory of the origin of life on Earth, rendered easily accessible to anyone, regardless of scientific background or mental agility. A useful and thought-provoking read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G. J. Oxley on 15 May 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Erwin Schrödinger might have famously asked 'What is Life?' many years ago, but his quesion was also posed in the title of a popular song by George Harrison on his 1971 triple-album (on vinyl, at least) 'All Things Must Pass'. The song, although only an album track for George, became a hit single for Aussie songstress Olivia Newton-John. My appropriate review title, comes from the first line of the song itself.

Now that I've divested myself of the above, completely extraneous, information, I can report that this book is an all-encompassing work that links chemistry to organic life forms and then flows on to posit and comment on much broader scientific issues as well as philosophical ones.

Falling somewhere between a long lecture and a popular science book, 'What is Life' is a good, non-difficult read, that should illuminate the minds and bookshelves of all modern persons who consider themselves intelligent and self aware.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Yeen on 1 July 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Whilst I suggest the people already literate on basic chemistry and biology quickly read through the first chapters the last chapters are worth purchasing on their own. The insights are very interesting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Su TOP 100 REVIEWER on 3 Feb. 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Addy Pross appears to come from the "all things emanate from chemistry" argument. It's isn't a brand new argument but one that bubbles to the surface every so often as human beings look to explain all the things which occur around us.

It is an interesting and thought provoking read which allows you to consider your own thoughts on the ideology, while offering some ideas of its own, but these are only ideas as yet with no solid research behind it. It is, however, an interesting read for anyone interested in the subject.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
One of the most intriguing questions is "where did Life come from?"

A wide variety of theories, all have to come back to the point in time (whenever it was) when inanimate stuff (Chemistry) "magically" turned into living, breating, thinking Life (Biology).

Both sciences are based on the same stuff - organic molecules for example - and yet have quite different views on their subjects.

This book is a well written discussion of the links between Chemistry and Biology, looking at how simple molecules could ever have evolved into the enormously complex living organisms that have (somehow) become intelligent, thinking creatures - and yet still made of the same basic chemicals.

Great book - well worth reading
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