The Feathered Onion : Creation of Life in the Universe

The Feathered Onion : Creation of Life in the Universe

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  • 製本 Paperback:紙装版/ペーパーバック版/ページ数 254 p.
  • 言語 ENG
  • 商品コード 9780470871874
  • DDC分類 576.83

Table of Contents

Preface                                            xi
Chapter 1 Year Dot 1 (29)
The Earth is very old, the universe is older
still. Life had plenty of time to develop
How much time has been available on the
Earth, and in the universe, for life to
form? Methods of estimation, early and more
recent. The Earth is now dated 4.6 billion
years by radioactivity; the universe is
dated 10-20 billion years by observations
of star light.
Chapter 2 Friends and Relatives 30 (23)
All life on Earth is related to a single
ancestor
All forms of life are much more closely
related than first appearances might
suggest. Major differences, even between
animals, plants and bacteria, are
superficial. The inner workings of their
cells are virtually identical. Nearly all
life depends on the same source of energy,
which is the simple combination of hydrogen
and oxygen to make water. Life on Earth had
a single origin, making the search for it
easier.
Chapter 3 Dating the Ancestors 53 (17)
When a timescale is added to relatedness,
life is found to be very old
Historical ideas about the youth of the
Earth, some of the earlier beliefs and
influential personalities. Recent progress
in dating fossils. Scientific distortions
such as hypothetical `missing links' and
the Piltdown Man.
Chapter 4 Before the Ancestors 70 (21)
Life is at least as old as the Earth
New technology enables protein or DNA
sequences to be compared, but a fresh
argument questions whether this provides a
reliable evolutionary timescale.
Chapter 5 Life's Not Simple 91 (19)
Life on Earth has always been complex
'Primitive' life more than 3.8 billion
years ago was already highly complex, with
cells, genes, proteins and an intricate
biochemical metabolism.
Chapter 6 Thanks to Thermodynamics 110(23)
If life was never simple, how did it start?
The central paradox of life: since life can
only be complex, how can it ever have been
simple? The evolution of life's chemistry
happened in the 10 billion years or so
before the Earth existed.
Chapter 7 Non-Event 133(16)
The moment life did not come into existence
There was no specific event.
Chapter 8 Spreading the Message 149(28)
Life is universal - but don't bother
searching for it
Doubling processes, such as gene
duplication and cell division, are so
fundamental to life that a single primitive
cell, almost regardless of its
inefficiency, could colonise a sterile
ocean in a blink of geological time. Ice
comets could preserve and transport
inter-stellar chemistry. The Oort Cloud and
Kuiper Belt are great reservoirs of
cometary material that can survive passage
through the atmosphere into the oceans of
the Earth.
Chapter 9 Unintelligent Design 177 (20)
Life's inheritance
Life's timescale is at least that of the
universe, not merely the Earth. Life has
changed very little in the Earth's accepted
timescale of 4.6 billion years. Evolution
has been merely a few simple variations on
an underlying biochemical theme.
Innovations have been trivial. Far from the
age of the Earth providing any constraint
on the antiquity of life, ultimately an
understanding of the origin of life may
throw fresh light on the historical
timeframe of the universe.
Chapter 10 Life: To Be Continued? 197 (28)
Life could do better, but probably won't
A genome is a program for the construction
of a living being and we are on the point
of being able to rewrite that program to
manufacture any grotesque combination. The
human species has reached the critical
point where it can change its own destiny.
On the other hand, human intelligence and
social behaviour have changed little in
thousands of years and will change little
in future millennia.
Glossary 225(7)
Appendix 232 (17)
Simple calculations, sources of information
and wider reading.
Index 249