Steps Towards Life: A Perspective on Evolution
This fascinating work, co-authored by a Nobel Prize winning scientist, extends Darwin's ideas on natural selection back into evolutionary time and applies them to the molecular "fossil record" that preceded the origin of life. Using the techniques of molecular biology, the book demonstrates that life on Earth is the inevitable result of certain chance events that took place in the unique history of our planet. Furthermore, researchers can not only precisely formulate the laws governing the emergence of life, but also test them under controlled laboratory conditions. In fact, the authors show how it is perfectly possible to construct evolutionary accelerators that optimize the conditions for certain events and which can be used to demonstrate their theoretical conclusions in laboratory experiments. The book is organized into three sections. Each of the 10 chapters in the first section are introduced by quotations from Thomas Mann's classic novel The Magic Mountain, a work that is deeply concerned with the themes presented here in scientific form. In the second part, important biological ideas form the themes of 15 colorfully illustrated vignettes, which can be read separately or as elaborations on the first section. The final section summarizes key events in the history of molecular biology and includes an extensive glossary of technical terms. Written for a wide audience, and already highly successful in the original German edition, this book brings fresh insight to the search for evolutionary origins. General readers will find it clear and accessible, as will students and scientists in biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, and evolution.
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