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Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Lifeby J Craig Venter
Synopses & Reviews
The renowned scientist and author of A Life Decoded examines the creation of life in the new field of synthetic genomics
In 2010, scientists led by J. Craig Venter became the first to successfully create synthetic life”—putting humankind at the threshold of the most important and exciting phase of biological research, one that will enable us to actually write the genetic code for designing new species to help us adapt and evolve for long-term survival. The science of synthetic genomics will have a profound impact on human existence, including chemical and energy generation, health, clean water and food production, environmental control, and possibly even our evolution.
In Life at the Speed of Light, Venter presents a fascinating and authoritative study of this emerging field from the inside—detailing its origins, current challenges and controversies, and projected effects on our lives. This scientific frontier provides an opportunity to ponder anew the age-old question What is life?” and examine what we really mean by playing God.” Life at the Speed of Light is a landmark work, written by a visionary at the dawn of a new era of biological engineering.
"Venter (A Life Decoded), a field giant of genetics, makes a persuasive case that synthetic biology will help us understand, appreciate, and improve our own biology. The impatient genius who arrogantly raced the U.S. government to sequence the human genome, Venter scores many 'firsts' in this emerging field, including the creation — nearly from scratch — of the first synthetic bacterium. It was not a pure 'first,' as he used cytoplasm from an existing cell to boot up his synthetic genome — which only deviated slightly from the genome of an existing bacterium. But it's a major coup; Venter's synthetic genome successfully instructed the cell to create living proteins. We can now change the software of life, which then changes its own hardware, as it were. Venter shares spellbinding stories from the frontiers of genomics — researchers creating living toolboxes out of mechanisms co-opted from varied life forms. For the wary, he notes nature itself mixes and matches species-specific mechanisms: our own mitochondria were once bacteria engulfed by, and incorporated into, our cells. Gene engineering opens new portals of life-designing potential, he argues, and he champions ethics reviews of such work. Venter instills awe for biology as it is, and as it might become in our hands. Agent: John Brockman, Brockman Inc." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Venter instills awe for biology as it is, and as it might become in our hands.” —Publishers Weekly
On May 20, 2010, headlines around the world announced one of the most extraordinary accomplishments in modern science: the creation of the worlds first synthetic lifeform. In Life at the Speed of Light, scientist J. Craig Venter, best known for sequencing the human genome, shares the dramatic account of how he led a team of researchers in this pioneering effort in synthetic genomics—and how that work will have a profound impact on our existence in the years to come. This is a fascinating and authoritative study that provides readers an opportunity to ponder afresh the age-old question What is life?” at the dawn of a new era of biological engineering.
For over three decades, Ray Kurzweil has been one of the most respected and provocative advocates of the role of technology in our future. In his classic The Age of Spiritual Machines, he argued that computers would soon rival the full range of human intelligence at its best. Now he examines the next step in this inexorable evolutionary process: the union of human and machine, in which the knowledge and skills embedded in our brains will be combined with the vastly greater capacity, speed, and knowledge-sharing ability of our creations.
About the Author
Ray Kurzweil is a prize-winning author and scientist. Recipient of the MIT-Lemelson Prize (the worldandrsquo;s largest for innovation), and inducted into the Inventorandrsquo;s Hall of Fame, he received the 1999 National Medal of Technology. His books include The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Age of Intelligent Machines.
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