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The Demon in the Machine: How Hidden Webs of Information Are Finally Solving the Mystery of Life Hardcover – 31 Jan 2019

3.7 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (31 Jan. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 024130959X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241309599
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.7 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

Brilliantly vivid ... The big idea is that understanding the information flow in organisms might be the missing part of our scientific jigsaw puzzle. The informational approach [to life], in David's elegant and lucid exposition, is highly promising (Steven Poole Guardian)

Important and imaginative (Clive Cookson Financial Times)

Boundary-transcending ... Davies claims that life's defining characteristics are better understood in terms of information ... there is grandeur in this view of life (Nature)

Paul Davies is a courageous explorer of the boundaries of what we can know about our world. This book makes his explorations available to all who enjoy pushing those boundaries. Written with a light entertaining touch, even the most abstruse science acquires the clarity of exposition for which the author is justly renowned (Denis Noble, University of Oxford, author of Dance to the Tune of Life: Biological Relativity)

This is one of the most exciting books I have read in years. Paul Davies celebrates a significant anniversary with a demonically brilliant investigation of a fundamental question that only the very latest science and philosophy can deal with. Now we have a view from the master that's as thrilling as it is satisfying. Superb. (Robyn Williams)

The molecular biology revolution has led to extraordinary understandings of how life emerges from physical processes. But comprehension of the nuts and bolts of these processes omits a key feature of what is going on: what separates life from non-life is information. In this characteristically clearly written and engaging book, ranging from physics to biology and evolutionary theory to neuroscience, Paul Davies strongly makes the case that at its core, life is about information flows. There is much food for thought here. Highly recommended. (George F.R. Ellis, University of Cape Town, co-author of The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time)

Paul Davies always probes the deepest questions in science. Here, addressing the deepest of all -- Schrödinger's What is Life? -- he tells us what life is: matter plus information - beyond the laws of physics, but compatible with them. To elaborate this thesis, he deploys his trademark talent: getting to the heart of the most abstruse and technical aspects of science (biology as well as physics), without jargon and with down-to-earth analogies (Michael Berry, HH Wills Physics Laboratory)

This creative demon shadows DNA and the promise of quantum computing, answering some basic questions. What is consciousness, why is life so good at predicting where it might go next? The bridge connecting fundamental physics, biology and the most advanced labs of computation is what Davies calls information patterns. He shows how it organizes for top-down creativity, and thereby holds off the grim reaper of entropy. With striking insight, and metaphors that illuminate the landscape of science today, Davies once again becomes a guide to the near future. (Charles Jencks, The Garden of Cosmic Speculation)

The Demon in the Machine encompasses some of the most intriguing and unsolved mysteries of the universe: the existence of an arrow of time imprinted on the cosmos, and the emergence of life itself. Davies' crisp but rich narrative succeeds in untangling various highly complex ideas and processes, while fluently and intelligently setting out its own arrow of argument. (Mikhail Prokopenko, The University of Sydney)

Paul Davies narrates a gripping new drama in science, in which the plot is the story of life and the leading actor is information. With his characteristic blend of erudition and clarity, he brings together some of the most rapidly advancing knowledge in physics and technology to show how information controls biology. If you want to understand how the concept of life is changing, read this. (Professor Andrew Briggs, University of Oxford, author of The Penultimate Curiosity and It Keeps Me Seeking.)

About the Author

Paul Davies is a Regents' Professor of Physics and Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University. The author of some 30 books, his many awards include the Templeton Prize and the Faraday Prize of The Royal Society. He is a Member of the Order of Australia and has an asteroid named after him.


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