Shop now Shop now Shop now Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Learn more Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Pre-order now Shop Men's Shop Women's

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Format: Paperback|Change
Price:£9.98+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on 14 April 2013
This book is for the big questions that keep us awake at night. The Whys, the Hows and the Whats of our yesterday and tomorrow. Beautifully written, intelligently balanced and accessible without ever patronising. The questions may still keep us awake, but we now have someone to share the twilight hours with. An essential companion for wonderers and insomniacs.
0Comment| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 30 April 2013
It was an interesting concept to bring together a review of current theories on the origins of life with a discussion of where dna research can and should go, but there was little new material here. Too much of the book was spent offering a primer on molecular biology to cover any new ideas in depth and in the end I was confused as to who was the target audience. If you are familiar with the basic science then this book is a waste of time and if not there are many superior alternatives on offer.
11 comment| 7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 25 April 2013
Adam Rutherford is an up and coming science icon. The way in which he's managed to write this book is impressive. It is enticing yet tells a very fundamental story and is very informative, not to mention is surprisingly engaging. It is a thrifty two books in one. I also got my copy signed by him, so I'm chuffed.
I would recommend the hardback version of the book as it'll last longer and look good on your shelf.
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 5 June 2014
A brilliant 2-in-one book, describing what we already know about abiogenesis - and we do know quite a lot - and then how the technology may develop in the future..

Although we will never find fossils to prove it, the book explains how the process could have worked - reducing it to something perfectly possible, not requiring the supernatural.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 14 April 2013
Thrilling, mind expanding, eloquent, impeccably researched and above all within the grasp of the scientifically uninitiated. This book allows us to look back to our origins and peer into the mind-bending future. A must read.
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 March 2014
Really enjoyed this book. Eye opening and very thought provoking; especially part 2: the future of life. As a nutritionist, I try and read a lot about physiology, cell biology and genetics but I've learnt more from this book than anything else I've read in years. Just enough 'science' to keep it interesting but not too much, which makes it easier to read and the author's writing style keeps the book very entertaining as well as informative. I'll certainly look out for more of his work.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Once upon a time people thought thunder must come from the gods. It was not understood, a mystery. Over the years one supernatural mystery after another has been explained by the advance of science.

But one mystery has been left: life. Even educated people are inclined to view 'the breath of life' as something supernatural. This is understandable, as life even in its most basic form is so complicated.

Rutherford's book takes us a long way towards slaying that last mystery. The book cleverly comes in two halves, which is no mere gimmick. By describing recent advances in synthetic biology, (and bringing into view the prospect that life may be created by humans), the one half does much to explain the other. For the second half explores the possible origins of life. Rutherford is here inspired by the principle 'to understand something you must first be able to build it'.

One crucial point he makes is that 'inanimate matter' is by no means 'inanimate', as any chemist knows. We tend perhaps to exaggerate the difference between living and non living matter. And Rutherford tries to lead us away from the idea of a single moment of creation. Instead we contemplate a long series of transitions between non living and living matter.

There is still a huge amount left to understand, but this book makes an outstanding contribution to progress in this field. It is easy to read and understand, and quite hard to put down once started.

0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 12 October 2014
Let's be clear: Adam Rutherford is a fine fellow whom I admire greatly, with thoroughly sensible views, and I won't hear a word said against him.


A few aspects of this book really niggled. In the first part of this book, about the origin of life, Rutherford chose a writing style which anthropomorphised the elements in what is essentially a biochemical process. The DNA does this, then the RNA does the other, whilst the genes decide to do that. As if these chemicals are making conscious decisions. And whilst I understand that this might make the processes clearer to many readers, I often found myself trying to re-phrase the text so that I could more easily understand the processes involved behind the cosy story.

A related niggle is the choice of some adjectives. I'm not of the opinion that you need to choose a popular and accessible, but unsuitable, adjective to make something understandable. I think it has the opposite effect - a suitable adjective is always better. Continental plates, for example, don't "jiggle".

Of course, Rutherford could have done a lot to explain his points through the liberal use of graphics, maps, photographs, figures, tables and diagrams. But wait - where are they? There are none. Not a single, solitary one. What's that all about??!?

The second half, about current applied research in genetics, reads like the scripts of a number of BBC Horizon programmes, and that worked better for me.

An extra star, though, for the use of footnotes instead of the dreadful, and all too common, endnotes. Cheers Adam!
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 18 January 2014
There's a story, probably apocryphal, of how Winston Churchill gave a speech to the Free French, ill-advisedly in the tongue of Molière and Balzac. Quand je regarde mon derrière, boomed Britain's great wartime leader, Je vois qu'il est divisé en deux parts. None of which appears at first sight to have very much to do with the fine and definitely bipartite Creation by the radio presenter, former Nature editor, Man in White and all-round egghead, Adam Rutherford.

As the best books about evolution have probably all been written, says Rutherford, the only option is to write a book of two halves - one on what happened before evolution, and the other on what's happening now, that is, how evolution is being co-opted by us humans. Like Churchill, he takes the two-halvedness quite literally. Creation is presented as two books, each with its own front cover. You can start reading Creation: The Origin of Life. Or, if you prefer, turn it backwards, flip it upside down and read Creation; The Future of Life. The books are each independent from the other, and are individually quite short, but - just like the two halves of Churchill's derrière - they meet in the middle, and form a cohesive whole.

Of the two halves, The Origin of Life is the less successful. To be sure, it fizzes with brio, and perhaps strays more towards the breathless this-is-the-sound-of-a-flea-sneezing-magnified-five-million-times style than is really comfortable to one as jaded as I. There is much of the required rehearsal of the structure of nucleic acids and so on - necessarily so. Where it falls down is the discussion of the environment of the earliest days of the Earth - which is no surprise, as this is a fast-moving, deeply complex and contentious field. The classic Miller-Urey experiment is discussed, but I felt that a little more time could have been taken to discuss a few more historical ideas about the origins of life, such as Cairns-Smith's ideas on the nucleation of molecules on clay minerals, or the seminal early thoughts of the likes of Oparin and Bernal.

The Future of Life is altogether more successful and makes up for any deficiencies in its companion. Rutherford's overview of the still-very-new field of synthetic biology is masterful. But it's where he gets into the legal and moral issues surrounding genetic modification that he really gets into his stride, using a philosophical and much more authoritative style that suits him better than the plain reportage elsewhere. True, the tone is far more serious, but is the more effective for all that. From this book you'd never know that, in person, Rutherford is killingly funny (as well as devilishly handsome - why no author photo, hmm?) I look forward to whatever he has up his sleeve next - something longer, deeper, more considered.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 July 2013
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

As the blueprint of all that lives, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) may be said to be the key to understanding life itself. It is incredible to think, then, that the structure of DNA was only discovered some 60 years ago (thanks especially to the work of James Watson and Francis Crick). Since that time, many significant advances in genetics have been made--including the deciphering of the genomes of numerous species (including our own); and, even more impressively, the successful manipulation of the genetic code to introduce the features of one species to another (for example, having a goat produce spider's silk out of its milk).

As impressive as these feats are, though, they are but the beginning of what promises to come from the study of genetics. Indeed, compared with other sciences, such as physics and chemistry, genetics is still in its infancy, and we can be assured that the most significant discoveries and applications are yet to come. Even now, geneticists are making significant progress in uncovering the origin of life--meaning answering the question of just how life may have sprung out of lifeless chemistry--and are also making advancements in turning genetic manipulation into a standardized engineering science that is capable of churning out technological solutions in everything from food production to energy to medicine (a field that has been dubbed `synthetic biology'). It is these recent advances in genetics that are the main topic of Creation: How Science is Reinventing Life Itself by science writer Adam Rutherford.

Rutherford begins by giving us a refresher in basic biology, by way of running through the 3 ideas that stand at the heart of biology: 1) cell theory; 2) Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection; and 3) the structure and operation of DNA. Each of these ideas leads us to the conclusion that life began at a single point, but does not address the question of how life began in the first place. Now, though, this question is being addressed, and Rutherford updates us on the progress.

A living organism requires both a structure that can be replicated, and some energy to carry out this replication; thus the question of the origin of life comes down to the question of how this structure originally came to be organized, and where the energy came from to allow for the replication. With regards to the first part of this question, scientists have been able to trace out the likely original constituents of the first organism, and have also established that many of these original constituents readily self-organize into the form that they take when the right molecules and conditions are present--thus while the question of the original structure of life has not yet been solved entirely, geneticists are hot on the trail of doing just this.

Second, with regards to the energy problem, it has been established that, originally, the energy needed for replication could well have come from outside of the biological structure itself--the most likely candidate at this point being the energy from hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean. Experiments are currently underway that recreate the physical and chemical conditions at the bottom of the ocean near hydrothermal vents--but the hit and miss nature of this procedure means that there are no guarantees these experiments will be successful in procuring life.

When it comes to creating life from scratch, the better bet might be that this will come from synthesizing the basic biological parts and manipulating them into the organization that is needed for them to carry on into perpetuity. This is the domain of a new science called synthetic biology. Of this domain we learn that geneticists have already been able to synthesize many biological structures--and have even synthesized DNA and introduced it into a cell where it functions normally, like any other DNA.

While creating life form scratch is one goal of synthetic biology, it is subordinate to a much larger goal, which is to take full control of genetic information in order that it may be used for any number of purposes, from incapacitating viruses, to creating synthetic biofuel, to fabricating food stuffs that carry any biological feature we may want. Scientists have in fact already made considerable progress in these areas. However, they have also run into some significant barriers along the way--largely having to do with the sheer complexity of biological systems. Still there is hope that this complexity will ultimately be tamed.

One part of this taming effort comes from the endeavor to create standardized genetic components that are capable of carrying out a specific function. The spirit of this enterprise is captured in the iGEM competition--an international competition that brings together teams of university students from every corner of the planet with one goal: to demonstrate a unique biological function using standard genetic parts, called `BioBricks' (drawn from a library of these BioBricks that the students are themselves encouraged to add to in the course of their projects). The iGEM competition has already churned out some very impressive applications, and the speed of progress is very encouraging.

Rutherford does a very good job of covering some of the most significant recent advances in genetics, and of explaining the science behind it. The author also does well to capture the promise of the recent advances, while at the same time acknowledging the significant obstacles that stand in the way of future progress. The offering is certainly more readable than George Church's latest book Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves--to which this book will no doubt be compared. However, Rutherford (despite having a solid background in biology himself) does not have quite the insider's perspective that someone like Church does, which is the only drawback I see here. All in all a very good popular science book on a very important topic. A full executive summary of the book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com; a podcast discussion of the book will be available soon.
22 comments| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)