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djb (england)

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In the Blink of an Eye: The Cause of the Most Dramatic Event in the History of Life
In the Blink of an Eye: The Cause of the Most Dramatic Event in the History of Life
by Andrew Parker
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The See-you-Jimmy theory of evolution, 21 Mar 2009
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The author summarises the story of pre-Cambrian evolution insofar as it is known and considers possible causes for the evolutionary changes that define the Cambrian. He concludes that the key event was the rapid simultaneous evolution of vision, predation, and protective structures as a consequence of improved environmental light levels.
The book would benefit from some editing, but is an essential read for anyone interested in the Cambrian period or the story of evolution.


The Way of the Cell: Molecules, Organisms, and the Order of Life
The Way of the Cell: Molecules, Organisms, and the Order of Life
by Franklin M. Harold
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond the genome, 21 Mar 2009
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Bio-chemistry has identified the molecular mechanics of life... DNA, RNA, enzyme activities, metabolic cycles etc....but Harold argues that "a satisfying reading of lifes riddle demands a rational account of biological organisation....a cell is more than an aggregate of individual molecules; it is an organised, structured purposeful and evolved whole". How did formal organisation evolve? "The genetic program has been the focus...but...the fallacy is the tacit assumption...that all the levels of biological order are spelled out in the genome....the cell provides the context for the expression of that network".
Cells beget cells.Structure begets structure.Organelles beget organelles.
Excellent book. Great read. Superb.


In the Beat of a Heart: Life, Energy, and the Unity of Nature
In the Beat of a Heart: Life, Energy, and the Unity of Nature
by John Whitfield
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 18.68

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some hope., 21 Mar 2009
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A desire to find fundamental underlying laws applicable to biology, metabolism, and ecosystems which might unite biology with the physical sciences......concludes that biological systems are just too complex; there are too many superimposed patterns for a simple reductive once and for all answer to everything.


BT Duet 20 Telephone - Chalk White
BT Duet 20 Telephone - Chalk White

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Keep it Simple, 21 Mar 2009
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Why choose this phone?
Inexpensive. Simple and well designed, clever reversible hook to permit wall mounting, volume control, corded handset (cordless phone conversations may be intercepted on a normal radio over quite a range)...only one design flaw...an easily removable BT branded graphic logo. Why do companies feel the need to do that ?...otherwise a good simple well made phone with a nice feel.


Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins
Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins
by Robert M. Hazen
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended, 30 Dec 2008
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This is a really excellent book for anyone interested in the scientific speculations relating to the evolution or emergence of life.

It is an overview and introduction to the scientific ideas of those individuals who are striving to pick the lock and solve that most fundamental question. The assumption is that life has self-assembled and emerged from an assemblage of pre-biotic chemicals somewhere on Earth.

The emphasis becomes focussed on how certain chemicals might serve as scaffolds to assist the fabrication of complex structured macromolecules.

The problem of biogenesis remains massive but if you are interested then buy this book. One of two excellent books on the subject (The other being Paul Davies - the Fifth Miracle).


The Art of Genes: How Organisms Make Themselves
The Art of Genes: How Organisms Make Themselves
by Enrico Coen
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars scientific impressionism, 30 Dec 2008
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A decent read for anyone interested in the science of how animals and plants unfold from a fertilised cell according to the choreographed activity of genes, and biochemical signals.
Unfortunately - for me - the artistic metaphor was forced too far, too often, to the exclusion of the science. The author refers to hidden colours, and scents. What is wrong with a more correct scientific terminology? The use of a single colour to represent a certain cellular territory within a developing embryo etc also seems to risk suggesting an over-simplification. Surely it isn't just one gene / master protein / colour that is active.Coen was at pains to flog the artistic analogy for all it was worth even when it was not really worth it. To be honest my heart sank when forced to encounter another lengthy tract about Velasquez or Picasso or Leonardo or the artists interaction with the canvas.The problem with the whole analogy is the presence of the artist i.e. there is a conscious intelligence guiding the creative process which does not occur with the development of an organism from a fertilised egg cell.
However this is a fascinating subject and - on balance - a useful contribution.


Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters
Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters
by Matt Ridley
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.69

8 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Which bit of the genome makes us so indifferent to our treatment of those species that share 94% of our DNA, 1 Feb 2008
Read for interest rather than serious study.
Can't say I enjoyed it as much as some other reviewers - it is good in parts.

Loosely structured as a romp through the 23 chromosomes of the human genome - the author takes one gene from each chromosome and examines its function. At times the author seems happy to slip the bonds of this literary structure to follow his enthusiasms and interests.

The best bits are the chapters on junk DNA, cancer, and gene therapy.

The worst bit - I still find it odd that scientists can talk dispassionately about the statistical results of procedures which involve injecting diseased tissue into monkey's brains. Indeed the author gets most excited when defending the `rights' of individuals to chose to eat potentially prion-infected meat products (or medicines) produced by an industry which has fed cattle on rendered recycled and infected bovine brain matter. He argues that the low number of human deaths from new variant CJD is an acceptable loss. Really?

Which bit of the genome makes us so indifferent to our treatment of those species that we are initially told share 94% of our DNA?
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 2, 2011 1:26 PM GMT


The End of Evolution
The End of Evolution
by Peter Douglas Ward
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And finally...., 21 Jan 2008
This review is from: The End of Evolution (Hardcover)
The book describes the major mass extinction events - at the end of the Permian; at the end of the Cretaceous; and now.

It was written during a one-year sabbatical and at first it did seem to be a rather superficial product to justify this time out.
The book is padded out with personal memoir.
At times the writing is a bit fictitious too e.g. "when Wegener died...in 1930, the geological establishment heaved a barely disguised sigh of relief".

Possibly this is two books stuck together. The treatment of the current mass extinction - which is the most disturbing - was somehow less satisfactory.

Sometimes the array of facts seemed to be a little too conveniently assembled, and it would benefit from an update where predictions are made of rain forest destruction circa year 2000 etc, but the message of this part of the book is of such importance and is so depressing that it seems almost churlish to write a criticism of the text.

The account of Man's destruction of the fauna of Hawaii is shocking but as an illustration of Man's destructive impact the author could equally have included something of Darwin's dry observational account of the barbaric cruelty inflicted upon the tame animals and birds of the Galapagos.

The book should have ended circa page 270-271 with the forceful polemic "what right do we have to drive other older species into extinction? " but in the end the author could not resist the temptation to finish on an artificially created positive note.
And finally.....

Worth reading.


Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom
Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom
by Sean B. Carroll
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More science please.... we're British., 14 Jan 2008
The author explains how animals develop from a single fertilised cell according to the unfolding logic of a small number of so-called "toolkit" genes.Amazingly all animals utilise the same limited set of genes.All cells contain the complete set of genetic info necessary to build the whole animal and the activity of each gene in an embryonic cell is controlled by a complex array of genetic switches which are triggered by specific proteins etc....

The science is fascinating but the writing can be sloppy. For example " if signatures for repressor proteins are removed, then the patterns drawn by switches will expand" should surely be translated as "...then the activity of the gene will be repressed in fewer cells".

Surely it is important for the language to be accurate and precise. Sean Carroll seems to be more concerned to quote Hendrix, Lennon and McCartney and promote such awful phrases as Evo-Devo...aaahhh. Even so, the science is fascinating.


Darwin's Black Box: Biochemical Challenge to Evolution
Darwin's Black Box: Biochemical Challenge to Evolution
by Michael J. Behe
Edition: Hardcover

22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Open the box, 7 Jan 2008
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The basic argument is that evolution by a gradual series of random mutations cannot account for the development of highly complex ,resolved and irreducible bio-chemical networks.
It does not do justice to this book to portray this debate as religion v science.
The fact is that we struggle to explain the evolution of life on Earth from pre-biotic chemicals;or the evolution of DNA and its sophisticated interaction with proteins.
It is no bad thing to remain sceptical of whether nineteenth and early twentieth century scientific theory is really adequate to fully explain the outstanding complexity or the brilliantly conceived and engineered solutions of nature.


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