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Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life Hardcover – 17 Oct 2013

4.1 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; First Edition edition (17 Oct. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408705249
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408705247
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.6 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 411,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Captivating and essential . . . fascinating . . . a superb and well-articulated book (Biochemist)

One of the most talented and influential scientists at work today (Independent on Sunday)

One of the world's leading scientists delivers a history of molecular biology and its many ramifications depicted as it has been and will continue to be, a creator of the golden age of modern biology. His style is that of a dispatch from the front, urgent and engaged, as only a participant could write it, and the best of its genre since James D. Watson's The Double Helix (Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University)

In 1943 Erwin Schrödinger asked the question "What is life?" Craig Venter decided to find out. The first step in understanding something is to take it apart. The next step is to put it back together. Finally, prove that you haven't neglected anything by building it yourself from scratch. In this articulate, precise, and uniquely first-person report from the front lines between biology and technology--commendably addressing the role of proteins as well as the nucleotides that code for them--Craig Venter sheds new light on Schrödinger's question, while explaining how his own pioneering work reading and writing genetic sequences between living cells and computers is enabling life as we know it to take the first steps toward becoming something else. A landmark account (George Dyson, author of Turing's Cathedral and Darwin Among the Machines)

Life at the Speed of Light takes you to the frontier of science to explain the exciting potential of synthetic biology. Craig Venter, one of our most vivid and iconoclastic scientists, weaves the history of our understanding of life with his personal journey as one of the key scientists in decoding the human genome, and now one of the leaders of research into programming DNA and even making synthetic living organisms. It could prove to be one of the most important technologies of this century (Nathan Myhrvold, co-founder of Intellectual Ventures and former Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft)

Humanity is entering a period of radical transformation and one reason is due to Craig Venter's research in creating new life forms based on computer designed synthetic DNA. Life at the Speed of Light is his beautifully written, powerful and persuasive story on how DNA information and computers will blend in the coming singularity, that watershed in the evolution of humanity beyond which amazing new possibilities for life, society and everything we care about will emerge (Ray Kurzweil, author of How to Create a Mind and The Singularity Is Near)

When scientists finally succeed in transmitting to another galaxy the digital instructions for building a living organism, they will rely on science that Venter has pioneered . . . Readers will thank Venter for an insider's perspective on epoch-making science (Booklist)

Spellbinding stories from the frontiers of genomics.... Venter instills awe for biology as it is, and as it might become in our hands (Publishers Weekly)

[A] remarkable book (Scientific American)

A fascinating glimpse at a scientific frontier (Kirkus Reviews)

Book Description

Where did our search to understand life come from? And where will it take us?

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

Ever since the structure of DNA was deciphered by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953, the field of biology has advanced at a lightning-quick pace. In this time, we have learned how DNA codes for the manufacture of proteins of which every living thing is made, and thus acts as the blueprint of life. We have also learned to read this blueprint; to splice it (to transfer genes, and hence features, from one organism to another--and even one species to another); to synthesize it from its component parts; and we have even learned to rewrite DNA to yield wholly new biological products, features and organisms. Thus recent advances have not only allowed us to gain a better understanding of what life is and how it works, but have also allowed us to take control of life and to manipulate it to help advance our ends--and in fields as wide-ranging as food production, medicine, energy, environmental protection etc. And this is just the beginning, for biologists still have much to learn about which genes code for what features, and how to manipulate DNA to achieve the best results--and thus we can expect that some of the greatest applications to come out of biology are yet to come.

The biologist J. Craig Venter has been at the forefront of biological research for the past 35 years, and has played a pivotal role in some of its most important advances (including everything from sequencing the human genome, to creating the first synthetic life form), and in his new book Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life, Venter takes us through the major advances that have occurred since the time of Watson and Crick--and also touches on what is likely to come next.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Craig Venter led one of the two organisations that gave us the first full draft of the human genome in 2001. But he has achieved much more than this. A PhD graduate himself, he also has that rare entrepreunarial genius that brought together his love of science, and in particular genetic science, with the ability to promote his own ideas and attract commercial and non-commercial support and funding to bring his ideas into fruition as world level pioneering research. The book has all the hall marks of a brilliant autobiography. It lucidly explains complex scientific facts, methodologies and the inner working of genomes in a way that an ordinary reader can readily grasp.

Beginning with the story of Nobel Prize winning physicist, Erwin Schroedinger, who inspired Watson and Crick to looking for the double helix of DNA, he moves on to his own pioneering research in producing the first complete bacterial genome, the first archael genome, and then the extraordinary, controversy-laden epic of setting up the company, Celera, which invented major new methodologies to make possible the deciphering of the complexities of the entire human genome. This utterly changed the research approaches to the modern world of genomics.

Venter continues to hit the cusp of exploration, producing the first bacterial form with a deliberately determined genome that aimed at discovering the basic genes required for the simplest cellular form of life.

One wonders what he will take on next - the first true artificially created life form using entirely novel genes?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some years ago I stumbled upon on an article discussing about “Synthetic Biology” and remembering not paying too much attention to it seemed to me as Synthetic biology was more of an area touching at science-fiction than actually Science.

I was not wrong… but not right either.

It was untilLATSOL-204x313 some months ago researching books on molecular biology that I found “Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life”by “J. Craig Venter which happened to be about this subject and after reading the book cover to cover the book opened my eyes on a whole field I wasn’t aware of.

As it is clearly said within the book, most of molecular biology and related fields fall towards a reductionist experimental approach while synthetic biology ultimate goal is all about creation.

The book is an beautiful synthesis of all the major scientific breakthroughs (and when suited J. Craig Venter involvement) that lead to the historical event of the first “living” “synthetic” cell ever made in history[1].

Going throughout the history we rediscover the key experiments that went against “vitalism” during the 19th century to the many stepping stones from the 50’s to the 70’s that lead to the foundation of today’s molecular biological knowledge.

But most importantly I discovered that it was Schrödinger with this book “What is life” was the first that aimed to describe life with physics and chemistry alone and that the ultimate success of J. Craig Venter was he and his team managed to leave evidence of that heritage.

In summary what happened is that J.
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