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Drawing on recent discoveries and insights, How Life Works outlines a new vision of biology for the 21st century.
Over the past two decades or so, biology has undergone a quiet but profound transformation. Several aspects of the standard picture of how life works - the idea of the genome as a blueprint, of genes as instructions for building an organism, of proteins as precisely tailored molecular machines, of cells as entities with fixed identities, and more - have been exposed as incomplete, misleading or wrong. The popular narratives of biology have not kept pace with these changes; instead we have been encouraged to view the processes of life as a black box within which the details are too dizzyingly complicated to contemplate. How Life Works opens up that black box and shows life to be a far richer, more ingenious affair than we had guessed. It explains that there is no unique place to look for the answer to how life works: it is a hierarchical system of many levels, each with its own rules and principles: genes, proteins, cells, tissues and body modules such as the immune system and the nervous system. How Life Works explains how each level operates and how they interface and work together (most of the time). With this knowledge come new possibilities. Today we can redesign and reconfigure living entities, tissues and organisms. We can reprogram cells to carry out new tasks and grown into structures not seen in the natural world. As we continue to discover the rules that dictate the forms into which cells organize themselves, our ability to guide and select the outcomes becomes ever more profound. Some researchers believe that ultimately this will enable us to regenerate limbs and organs, and perhaps even to create new life forms that evolution has never imagined. How Life Works will offer nothing less than a new view of the life sciences. Informed by cuttingedge research and drawing on ideas that are only now just beginning to reach the scientific literature, it will ultimately revise our concept of what life itself is, how to fix it, and what unforeseen possibilities it offers. ...
Philip Ball is a freelance writer and broadcaster, and was an editor at Nature for more than twenty years. He writes regularly in the scientific and popular media and has written many books on the interactions of the sciences, the arts, and wider culture. His book Critical Mass won the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books. Ball is also a presenter of Science Stories, the BBC Radio 4 series on the history of science. He trained as a chemist at the University of Oxford and as a physicist at the University of Bristol. He is the author of The Modern Myths, The Book of Minds, and How Life Works. He lives in London.
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Over the past two decades, our understanding of the ways life functions have been transformed in many ways but the public narratives about biology have not kept up. By drawing on these recent discoveries and insights, this book outlines a new vision of biology for the 21st century.
A cutting-edge new vision of biology that will revise our concept of what life itself is, how to enhance it, and what possibilities it offers from Science Book Prize winner and former Nature editor Philip Ball.
Biology is undergoing a quiet but profound transformation. Several aspects of the standard picture of how life works have been exposed as incomplete, misleading, or wrong.
In How Life Works, Philip Ball explores the new biology, revealing life to be a far richer, more ingenious affair than we had guessed. With this knowledge come new possibilities. Today we can redesign and reconfigure living systems, tissues, and organisms. We can reprogram cells, for instance, to carry out new tasks and grow into structures not seen in the natural world. Some researchers believe that ultimately we will be able to regenerate limbs and organs, and perhaps even create new life forms that evolution has never imagined.
Incorporating the latest research and insights, How Life Works is a sweeping journey into this new frontier of the nature of life, a realm that will reshape our understanding of life as we know it.