Brand : Paul Davies

The Fifth Miracle: The Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life

Bruce boatner |

I just wanted to know how dna works!

With the importance of understanding the ramifications of genetic engineering in food, medicine and who knows what else, knowledge is power and ignorance is anything but bliss. recently the headlines blared "u.s. government rules food labelling unnecessary". this is a very scary proposition, being told that you don't have the right to know what you're eating. the powerful special interests can get away with this because we are ill-informed on the subject. i read "the fifth miracle" hoping to understand a little better how the mechanics of life work at the most elementary level. of course the author spins a much grander tale, but i was delighted by his descriptions of the various components of dna weaving the raw materials of life like tiny computers reading software programs. i would say i got a better understanding of genetics from this book than i could have from any dry college text. ostensibly we have here an near-fictional account of the origins of life, but this book contains a huge amount of useful information, invaluable for understanding today's scientific trends and making sense of news from the bio-genetics front. perhaps one of the highest purposes this book could serve would be to help us make more informed decisions about our environment and therefore the future quality of our lives.

John c. landon |

Life: theory at the cutting edge

The author of the cosmic blueprint with its intimations of hardware and software laws gives us an engaging extended query as to the orgin of life and highlights the still ongoing enigma of biogenesis. between the randomness and contingency of the darwinian view, and the biological determinism of exterrestrial researchers or proponents of self-organization davies brings a question about the relations of these contraries with a crucial twist: "the whole point of the genetic code is to *free* life from the shackles of nonrandom chemical bonding". this and many other issues, from life on mars, to the panspermia hypothesis conclude with a question, is the universe biofriendly. a very helpful flashlight in the fog of the intractable problem of the genesis of life.

Margaret c. turnbull |

To paul davies: need a grad student?

As a graduate student in astronomy who is absolutely enraptured with the phenomenon of life in our universe, i can only thank the author for bringing this new world of inquiry so beautifully into view. i encourage all, regardless of scientific training, who are simply wanting to learn about what "life" is and how it could have arisen here on our planet to begin reading this book. i say "begin" reading the book, because i have no doubt that you will quickly become enthralled with the sheer magnificence of the topic as well as utterly charmed by davies' writing style. (although i must agree with a previous reviewer about the comment regarding jesus christ's atoms, i'm not sure it was intentional.) davies has a rare and admirable ability to bring a subject to life (no pun intended), and through a combination of superb stories, metaphors, comparisons and newly invented words he manages to turn seemingly dry facts into concepts that can be as much felt as seen. the most wonderful part of this book is that it has inspired me to think day and night about the "meaning" of it all (davies addresses this but doesn't try to enlighten us on that front). as a scientist i just can't get over the seeming miraculity of life. the perfection of it all is just too much for words. topics covered: "definition" of life, cell structure, dna/rna replication, the phylogenetic tree of life, extremophiles, attempts to create life "in a test tube," the probability of "accidentally" creating life out of the basic building blocks, the possibility of life on mars, panspermia, life as the organization of information, much more...