The Physics and Chemistry of Life

The Physics and Chemistry of Life

The Physics and Chemistry of Life

The Physics and Chemistry of Life

Excerpt

This book is concerned with life as a physical process. The questions raised here are the kind that can be answered wholly within the disciplines that explain the behavior of nonliving atoms and molecules. The first chapter advances an explanation of how life was originally ignited in the elements of the earth. The last chapter describes the beginning of our understanding of the electrical basis of thought. The speculations of these two authors are sustained by the work in a dozen different fields of investigation reported by the other contributors to the book. There are gaps and unknowns in the picture. But it is a connected one, and it is increasingly worthy of the attention of priests, philosophers and poets.

It is to these and other nonscientists that this book is primarily addressed. Its contents are the product of a unique collaboration between its scientist-authors and the editors of the magazine SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, in which the eighteen chapters were first published as articles during the past several years. Assembled in book form, each article gains in relevance from the others. Together, they present a synthesis of the state of knowledge of life that is not to be found between the covers of any other book.

The Origin of Life, by George Wald, is itself a synthesis of a good deal of the material in the succeeding chapters. To reconstruct the beginning of life, a scientist must marshal what we know about the processes of life as they go on today: how complex living material is built up from the simple molecules of nonliving matter; how it is endowed with the properties we associate with life; how living things reproduce themselves and transmit their . . .

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