Steps Towards Life: A Perspective on Evolution
Oxford University Press, 1992 - 173
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. Further, we can not only precisely formulate the laws governing the emergence of life, but we can test them under controlled laboratory conditions. In fact, the authors show how it is perfectly possible to construct evolutionary accelerators--machines which optimize the conditions for certain events and which can be used to demonstrate their theoretical conclusions in laboratory experiments. The book is organized in three sections. The first 10 chapters form the main text. Each is 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 main text. 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. In addition to general readers, who will find it clear and accessible, the book will interest students and scientists in biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, and evolution.
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adapted amino acids autocatalysis bacteria bacteriophage best-adapted binary catalytic cellular chain Chem chemical chemical equilibrium chirality cloning coli compartment complementary complex components containing copying cycle Darwinian distance distribution double-stranded efficiency Eigen encode energy-rich entropy enzyme equilibrium error rate error threshold eucaryotic evolution evolutionary example feedback function genes genetic code genetic information genetic recombination genome genotype host cell hydrogen hypercycle individual infection mechanism membrane metabolism microorganisms molecular biology molecules Monod monomers mRNA mutants natural neutral mutants nucleic acids nucleotides optimal organisms origin oxygen phage phenotype physical plasmids polymer polymerase population numbers possible prebiotic principle procaryotic protein provirus quantitative quasi-species random reaction replication reproduction result RNA molecules RNA viruses Schuster selection value sequence space single single-stranded RNA species strand structure symbols synthesis template theory thermodynamics thousand million transcription transfer RNA translation triphosphate tRNA value landscape Vignette viral RNA wild type Winkler-Oswatitsch