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on 15 April 2017
The difference between this and modern writers is clear. They make things much easier to understand and much more interesting, which is not to say this is not a fine book, but it's more like an academic textbook. Lacks joy and wonder.
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on 30 March 2017
Brilliant, incredibly prescient and concise. If you have the slightest interest in molecular biology, genetics or just science in general this is a must read book.
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on 11 July 2017
Good book on life and biology dated mid 50s, prior to major discoveries like DNA
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on 15 October 2017
This is a book worth buying it is excellent!
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on 13 June 2015
As others have commented, the greater part of this book contains Schrodinger’s contribution to the field of molecular biology from the point of view of quantum physics. This is fascinating in itself. And the key lesson, that life is a form of order which uniquely ‘feeds on order’ (or, in Boltzmann’s terms, in an entropic universe, it uniquely thrives on negative entropy), takes us directly to the work of Prigogine.

But throughout the book, and especially in the second part (‘Mind and Matter’) there is also much of philosophical interest. The author’s opposition to the traditional subject/object dichotomy, and all the problems which follow from it (which he blames on an ancient tendency to ‘objectivation’), sits well with the work, say, of Hegel or Whitehead.

Schrodinger’s deep understanding of quantum mechanics gives him valuable philosophical insights. For example, on p.145 he explains the importance of Kant. Contrary to the usual interpretation, he suggests, Kant’s “supreme importance” is not “in justly distributing the roles of the mind and its object – the world – between them in the process of ‘mind forming an idea of the world’.” Why? Because, as noted above, the usual distinction between mind and world (as between subject and object) is one which Schrodinger rejects. Instead, Kant’s contribution is “to form the idea that this one thing – mind or world – may well be capable of other forms of appearance that we cannot grasp, and that do not imply the notions of space and time.”

Absolutely. Here we are recognisably in the territory of the most contemporary work on quantum physics, namely the continuing ramifications of Alain Aspects’s experiments to test Bell’s Theorem. In short, recent experimental work has proved that our world – of space, time and, Schrodinger would add, of mind too – emerges as a whole from some underlying reality which remains unknown. Schrodinger’s slant gives to this pioneering work in science an even greater interest for philosophers than it has – or should have – already.
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on 15 October 2017
Erwin Schrödinger's book - What is Life? - is a classic of science literature - written several decades ago, and still one of those scientific writings very worth to read.
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on 8 September 2004
What Is Life?
Erwin Schrödinger
Cambridge University Press (2002)
The structure of DNA and the genetic code may have alluded us for some time more if Crick had not read Erwin Schrödinger's "What Is Life?" [1]. The research lead that Crick got by doing so was how a small set of repeating elements could give rise to a large number of combinatorial products, a mathematical relationship that Schrödinger illustrated using the Morse Code, based on an idea that he had actually got from the visionary work of Max Delbrück.
Delbrück, Schrödinger and Crick were physicists with an enthusiasm for tackling the unknown for the natural world. Crick's own motivation came directly from reading "What Is Life?" [2]. It seemed reasonable to make the cross-over as the infant field of biochemistry was bound to be governed by the same chemical and physical laws revealed in other, non-biological, disciplines. This was especially true given the progressive focus of biology on the increasingly small, until an effective convergence of scales in the studies of the biologically relevant on the biologically irrelevant. Hence the justification for Schrödinger's unspecific book title.
Although some of the notions in the book have been superseded by modern science, this remains a classic, written with great insight and modesty (Schrödinger downplays his potential as a biologist), and is worth the read if only as a portal in to the minds of those luminary workers.
By the time Watson and Crick were piecing together the jigsaw that would lead to their grand discovery, the far-reaching potential of Schrödinger's code script had been aligned with Chargaff's finding of a variable sequence of nucleotide bases, and the stage was set for that immortal terminal sentence, "It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic material."
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[1] Francis Crick (1989) What Mad Pursuit. Penguin.
[2] James Watson (1981) The Double Helix. Weidenfeld and Nicholson.
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on 15 March 2013
An enjoyable discussion on whether lithe process of life is based on the laws of physics. Although written 70 years ago it is still relevant. Would recommend to anyone with a mild interest in how the world works and scientist (creative ones) think.
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on 17 February 2011
It is no surprise this book is still in print that speaks for itself. An excellent thought provoking read especially in these DNA times.
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on 22 March 2013
A fascination study of the structure of living organisms from a molecular and quantum physics point of view. I also particularly enjoyed the second section of the book covering the more philosophical aspects.
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