Cells to Civilizations: The Principles of Change That Shape Life

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Princeton University Press, May 27, 2012 - Science - 336 pages

Cells to Civilizations is the first unified account of how life transforms itself--from the production of bacteria to the emergence of complex civilizations. What are the connections between evolving microbes, an egg that develops into an infant, and a child who learns to walk and talk? Award-winning scientist Enrico Coen synthesizes the growth of living systems and creative processes, and he reveals that the four great life transformations--evolution, development, learning, and human culture--while typically understood separately, actually all revolve around shared core principles and manifest the same fundamental recipe. Coen blends provocative discussion, the latest scientific research, and colorful examples to demonstrate the links between these critical stages in the history of life.


Coen tells a story rich with genes, embryos, neurons, and fascinating discoveries. He examines the development of the zebra, the adaptations of seaweed, the cave paintings of Lascaux, and the formulations of Alan Turing. He explores how dogs make predictions, how weeds tell the time of day, and how our brains distinguish a Modigliani from a Rembrandt. Locating commonalities in important findings, Coen gives readers a deeper understanding of key transformations and provides a bold portrait for how science both frames and is framed by human culture.


A compelling investigation into the relationships between our biological past and cultural progress, Cells to Civilizations presents a remarkable story of living change.

 

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User Review  - Erwind - LibraryThing

An interesting, at times intriguing, idiosyncratic but ultimately not completely successful argument that evolution, development, learning and human culture all reflect the operation of seven core ... Read full review

Contents

A RECIPE FOR CHANGE
1
LOOPS AND LOTTERIES
13
FROM GENES TO ECOSYSTEMS
34
CONVERSATIONS OF AN EMBRYO
61
COMPLETING THE PICTURE
84
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
111
HUMBLE RESPONSES
122
THE NEURAL SIBYL
150
FRAMING RECIPES
232
THE CRUCIBLE OF CULTURE
244
THE GRAND CYCLE
266
Acknowledgments
281
Notes
283
References
299
Illustration Credits
307
Index
313

LEARNING THROUGH ACTION
175
SEEING AS
200

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About the author (2012)

Enrico Coen is a plant molecular geneticist based at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, United Kingdom. He is the author of The Art of Genes, a fellow of the Royal Society, and a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. His awards include the Linnean Gold Medal and the Royal Society Darwin Medal.

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