This pathbreaking book explores how life can begin, taking us from cosmic clouds of stardust, to volcanoes on Earth, to the modern chemistry laboratory. Seeking to understand life’s connection to the stars, David Deamer introduces astrobiology, a new scientific discipline that studies the origin and evolution of life on Earth and relates it to the birth and death of stars, planet formation, interfaces between minerals, water, and atmosphere, and the physics and chemistry of carbon compounds. Deamer argues that life began as systems of molecules that assembled into membrane-bound packages. These in turn provided an essential compartment in which more complex molecules assumed new functions required for the origin of life and the beginning of evolution. Deamer takes us from the vivid and unpromising chaos of the Earth four billion years ago up to the present and his own laboratory, where he contemplates the prospects for generating synthetic life. Engaging and accessible, First Life describes the scientific story of astrobiology while presenting a fascinating hypothesis to explain the origin of life.
1. A Fireball Over Australia
2. Where Did Life Begin?
3. When Did Life Begin?
4. Carbon and the Building Blocks of Life
5. The Handedness of Life
6. Energy and Life’s Origins
7. Self-Assembly and Emergence
8. How To Build a Cell
9. Achieving Complexity
10. Multiple Strands of Life
11. Catalysts: Life in the Fast Lane
12. Copying Life’s Blueprints
13. How Evolution Begins
14. A Grand Simulation of Prebiotic Earth
15. Prospects for Synthetic Life
Sources and Notes
David Deamer is Research Professor in the Department of Biomolecular Engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He has written and edited many books, including The Origins of Life (with Jack Szostak).
"The origin of life may have happened an inconceivably long time ago, but scientists like David Deamer are making major advances in understanding how the first microbes began to seethe on our planet, ultimately giving rise to all species alive today. In First Life, Deamer offers a delightful synthesis of research into life's dawn with his own vision for how it came to be."—Carl Zimmer, author of The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution
"No living scientist has had a greater impact on our understanding of life’s origins than Dave Deamer. In First Life, his remarkably engaging, constantly lucid, and delightfully personal narrative, Deamer takes us behind the scenes of origins research as no one else could. What a story!”—Robert M. Hazen, Senior Staff Scientist, Carnegie Institution, and author of Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins
"David Deamer has written a truly wonderful book. A preeminent scientist in the origin of life field, he has produced a synoptic, wise, and warmly human discussion. Anyone interested in how we came to exist in our universe had best read this book.”—Stuart Kauffman, author of At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity and Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion
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