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What Is Life Hardcover – 1 Jun 1995

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 1 Jun 1995
£112.27 £68.56
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Jun. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684813262
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684813264
  • Package Dimensions: 23.2 x 16.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,507,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"A masterpiece of science writing. . . . You will cherish "What Is Life? because it is so rich in poetry and science, in the service of profound philosophical questions."--Mitchell Thomashow, "Orion --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

In What Is Life? Margulis and Sagan have rephrased the answer to Schrodinger s brilliant question by means of a new and spirited explanation of the emergent levels of biological organization. . . . Theirs is a conceptual framework likely to influence future introductions to biology. E. O. Wilson
A witty, exuberant panorama of life that elaborates the place of symbiosis in evolution. Mary Catherine Bateson
This splendid book shows how much more there is to life than mere reductionist biology. Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan tread faithfully in Erwin Schrodinger s footsteps and are his true successors. James E. Lovelock" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I received this book for Christmas this year, read it in 3 days, and began to read it again. It is very thought provoking. The historical symbiosis of ancient species is quite an earth shattering idea, that i had read about before, but never have seen put so convincingly together before. The book discusses the origins of life, how that life interacted with otherliving things in a random way to produce a more complicated existance for themselves. It challenges a lot of beliefs, not in a dis respectful way, but by compiling the evidence and gentle persuading you that chance does have an element in evolution. I would recommend this book without hesitation
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Format: Paperback
Taking their title from Erwin Schrödinger's classic text of 1944, "What is Life?", Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan attempt to revisit the age-old question as to just what it is that constitutes that special property we call 'life'. They begin with Schrödinger's original question and having established a starting point for how, in their view, life ought to be characterised, they move on to present a grand survey of just how it might have arisen in the first place, how it has changed and evolved since, how it might be categorised now and then briefly to speculate how it might develop in the future. Along the way, they demonstrate not only how wondrous life is but also that it may be nothing like as fragile (or indeed special) a thing as we like to fool ourselves into thinking it is.

The mother and son team write well for both expert and lay reader alike, presenting between them a perfect blend of passion, good sense and scientific authority. And while this book is over 13 years old now, it hasn't really aged at all, which gives you some idea of how far ahead of her field Lynn Margulis' thinking has always lain. Many of the ideas that she and Dorion present in this book -- regarding early life, symbiogenesis and the division of all living things into five separate kingdoms instead of two -- are even now only just gaining common credence amongst evolutionary biologists.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Everything very good.The Eternal Enigma' meet my expectations. The book is very interessing and the product was very good. tkanks.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Brilliant account of biology, with a philosophical slant.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars 15 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 Stars (and in a perfect world, MORE than five stars) but the original hardbound editions are still the best! 20 Feb. 2013
By David Marks - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Update on June 21, 2013: I do need to point out what I think is a rather obvious error in both the original hardbound versions and the later paperback version of this book. The graph in the early chapter, "Life: The Eternal Enigma" showing what has come to be known as the "Keeling" curve, is mislabeled! The increase in CO2 occurs in the winter in the northern hemisphere, NOT in the summer. In the spring and summer, northern hemisphere trees are leafed out and absorb large amounts of CO2, which REDUCES the total CO2 going into the atmosphere in these warmer months. In the winter in the northern hemisphere, deciduous trees lose their leaves and cannot then absorb this carbon dioxide, resulting in more CO2 in the atmosphere in the winter. Otherwise, this books deserves the 5 stars.

This is a fabulous, must-read book on the topic of "what is life", but I highly recommend buying only one copy of this paperback version. Then you need to go to Amazon's secondary sellers and find one or more "used, like new" copies of one of the two hardbound editions. Both of these hardcover editions are more impressive than the newer paperback, one being published in 1995 in London (Great Britain), and the second also being published in 1995, but by Simon & Schuster. Both of these hardcover editions were printed in Italy, by the way. The paperback version is printed on "permanent paper" but the quality, size, artisanship and design of the paperback version is not nearly as impressive as are the two hardbound editions.

This is why I recommend buying just one copy of the newer, compromised paperback (only because some of the scientific nomenclature has been updated), keeping in mind that the larger hardbound originals are so much easier to read and so much more "alive" (ironic, huh, given the title has to do with "life"), that I now find the paperback version to be overpriced and unable to match the awesome overall quality of the original hardbound.

In a sense, this difference in the two versions is much like the arguments that float out there about the relative value of e-books versus "real" books! If you ever wanted to understand the importance of typography, font selection, design, and binding of a book, then find a secondary seller here on Amazon (who has a "used/like new" version of one of the 1995 hardbound versions of this book), and buy that in addition to a copy of the "newer", less visually & emotionally impressive paperback.

By the way, Dorian Sagan comments in May of 2013 that he prefers the London hardcover version, the one printed in Italy. However, I can see no difference between this London (white cover) edition and the Simon & Shuster American edition (also printed in Italy, but with a black cover). Both were printed in 1995, and as far as I can tell they are identical.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond biology 8 Jan. 2003
By nborson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was as enthralled as other reviewers with the amazing facts in this book. My favorite: bacteria don't age; they can die from accidental causes but "programmed death" started with eukaryotes. The authors show that death is necessary for organisms (like us) that practice meiotic cell division.
But this book is far more than a random collection of facts. Margulis and her collaborators do an amazing job of assembling an understandable model of life using parts carefully selected from a vast body of biological knowledge. While a one-sentence definition is still elusive, the reader builds up a picture of life's most pertinent characteristics, as exhibited by the truly astounding diversity of living things on this planet. By the time I finished, I was satisfied that the authors had answered the question.
You don't need to be a biologist to understand and enjoy this book. Its beauty is that the greatest scientific thinking on the most complex topics has been presented in common english, with necessary scientific terms explained as they are introduced. If you are intrigued by the question of life, I doubt there's a more complete, accurate, understandable, and enjoyable answer available than this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 16 May 2016
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Perfect conditions.
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of the best. 1 May 2004
By Jimmy Porter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was totally engrossed with this book and for several weeks it became
an appendage. It is filled with awsome facts and enlightenments.
My only disappointment was that I am just an animal like all others on
this earth and nothing was said concerning what happens to me when
fungi take over. I mean "Me". Where do I go? Right now I beleive I just
plain die. It makes life a bit harder to face, to think all this is gone when
I die. Can anyone recommend a book that will help to give me an idea
as to what happens to my consciousness when I die??
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars great book, bad packaging 30 Dec. 2014
By Ruby Brouwer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
the book itself is wonderful. However i paid for 2 new books with covers. Only one had a cover and that was torn when i opened the package because the sticky seal of the package was attached to the cover. The packaging was inadequate for overseas travel, the corners and edges were badly scuffed, so i had to give a shoddy looking xmas present. Hopefully the great content will make up for it..
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