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Life from an RNA World: The Ancestor Within

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Life from an RNA World: The Ancestor Within Cover

 

Staff Pick

Most everyone knows about DNA, the molecular double helix that contains our genetic information. But, few outside the world of biochemistry are familiar with RNA. Yet research over the past 30 years strongly suggests a primordial world of RNA-based organisms near the origin of life on Earth. Life from an RNA World offers a clear account of the latest developments in the scientific quest for the origins of life, written for interested non-specialists.
Recommended by Orin, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A majority of evolutionary biologists believe that we now can envision our biological predecessors--not the first, but nearly the first, living beings on Earth. Life from an RNA World is about these vanished forebears, sketching them in the distant past just as their workings first began to resemble our own. The advances that have made such a pursuit possible are rarely discussed outside of bio-labs. So here, says author Michael Yarus, is an album for interested non-biologists, an introduction to our relatives in deep time, slouching between the first rudimentary life on Earth and the appearance of more complex beings.

The era between, and the focus of Yarus' work, is called the RNA world. It is RNA (ribonucleic acid) long believed to be a mere biologic copier and messenger, that offers us this glimpse into our ancient predecessors. To describe early RNA creatures, here called "ribocytes" or RNA cells, Yarus deploys some basics of molecular biology. He reviews our current understanding of the tree of life, examines the structure of RNA itself, explains the operation of the genetic code, and covers much else--all in an effort to reveal a departed biological world across billions of years between its heyday and ours.

Courting controversy among those who question the role of "ribocytes"--citing the chemical fragility of RNA and the uncertainty about the origin of an RNA synthetic apparatus--Yarus offers an invaluable vision of early life on Earth. And his book makes that early form of life, our ancestor within, accessible to all of us.

About the Author

Michael Yarus is Professor Emeritus, Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado.

University of Colorado

Table of Contents

  • Introduction to Your Ancestor
  1. Before We Begin: A Voluntary Chapter
  2. Framing the Problem: The Buffalo and the Bacterium
  3. The Big Tree: No Jackalopes Please
  4. A Dance of Atoms
  5. Allegro Agitato: The Origin of Life
  6. The Winds That Blow through the Starry Ways
  7. Tornados in a Junkyard
  8. Between Genomes and Creatures
  9. A Thumbnail Molecular Biology
  10. RNA Structure: A Tape with a Shape
  11. Intimations of an RNA World
  12. The Experimentally Impaired Sciences
  13. Test Tube RNA Evolution: First Light
  14. Selection Amplification: Interrogating RNA’s Possibilities
  15. RNA Duplication: Replicase Activity in Real RNAs
  16. RNA Capabilities and the Origins of Translation
  17. The Quest for the Peptidyl Transferase
  18. A Language Much Older Than Hieroglyphics: The Genetic Code
  19. Assume a Spherical Cow: The Ribocyte
  20. The Future of the RNA World
  • Lexicon
  • Index

Product Details

ISBN:
9780674060715
Author:
Yarus, Michael
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Location:
Cambridge
Subject:
Biochemistry
Subject:
Chemistry-Biochemistry
Subject:
Science : Life Sciences - Molecular Biology
Subject:
SCIENCE / Life Sciences/Evolution
Subject:
SCIENCE / Life Sciences/Genetics & Genomics
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20110318
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
13 line illustrations
Pages:
208
Dimensions:
8 x 6 in

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History and Social Science » Politics » General
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Life from an RNA World: The Ancestor Within New Trade Paper
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Product details 208 pages Harvard University Press - English 9780674060715 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Most everyone knows about DNA, the molecular double helix that contains our genetic information. But, few outside the world of biochemistry are familiar with RNA. Yet research over the past 30 years strongly suggests a primordial world of RNA-based organisms near the origin of life on Earth. Life from an RNA World offers a clear account of the latest developments in the scientific quest for the origins of life, written for interested non-specialists.

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