What Is Life?

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University of California Press, Aug 31, 2000 - Philosophy - 288 pages
Half a century ago, before the discovery of DNA, the Austrian physicist and philosopher Erwin Schrödinger inspired a generation of scientists by rephrasing the fascinating philosophical question: What is life? Using their expansive understanding of recent science to wonderful effect, acclaimed authors Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan revisit this timeless question in a fast-moving, wide-ranging narrative that combines rigorous science with philosophy, history, and poetry. The authors move deftly across a dazzling array of topics—from the dynamics of the bacterial realm, to the connection between sex and death, to theories of spirit and matter. They delve into the origins of life, offering the startling suggestion that life—not just human life—is free to act and has played an unexpectedly large part in its own evolution. Transcending the various formal concepts of life, this captivating book offers a unique overview of life’s history, essences, and future.

Supplementing the text are stunning illustrations that range from the smallest known organism (Mycoplasma bacteria) to the largest (the biosphere itself). Creatures both strange and familiar enhance the pages of What Is Life? Their existence prompts readers to reconsider preconceptions not only about life but also about their own part in it.
 

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WHAT IS LIFE?

User Review  - Kirkus

The authors of Mystery Dance: The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1991) return to the fundamental biological questions, this time taking on the slipperiest of all issues. Wisely, they avoid any ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - yapete - LibraryThing

Margulis is a first rate biologist, but this book falls far short of my expectations. It seems like she received an invitation to write book and put this one hastily together. It jumps from one thing ... Read full review

Contents

FLESH OF THE EARTH The Underworld Kissing Molds and Destroy
7
THE ETERNAL ENIGMA In the Spirit of Schrödinger Lifes
1
THE TRANSMUTATION OF SUNLIGHT Green Fire The Accursed
193
SENTIENT SYMPHONY A Double Life Choice Little Purposes
213
EPILOGUE
245
GLOSSARY
255
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
265
INDEX
271
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About the author (2000)

Lynn Margulis is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of more than one hundred articles and ten books, including Symbiosis and Cell Evolution (second edition 1993). Dorion Sagan, general partner of Sciencewriters, is the author of Biospheres (1990). Together they are the authors of Microcosmos (California, 1996), What Is Sex? (1990), Garden of Microbial Delights (1995), and Mystery Dance (1991).

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