Synopses & Reviews
No one can escape a sense of wonder when looking at an organism from within. From the humblest amoeba to man, from the smallest cell organelle to the amazing human brain, life presents us with example after example of highly ordered cellular matter, precisely organized and shaped to perform coordinated functions. But where does this order spring from? How does a living organism manage to do what nonliving things cannot do--bring forth and maintain all that order against the unrelenting, disordering pressures of the universe?
In The Touchstone of Life, world-renowned biophysicist Werner Loewenstein seeks answers to these ancient riddles by applying information theory to recent discoveries in molecular biology. Taking us into a fascinating microscopic world, he lays bare an all-pervading communication network inside and between our cells--a web of extraordinary beauty, where molecular information flows in gracefully interlaced circles. Loewenstein then takes us on an exhilarating journey along that web and we meet its leading actors, the macromolecules, and see how they extract order out of the erratic quantum world; and through the powerful lens of information theory, we are let in on their trick, the most dazzling of magician's acts, whereby they steal form out of formlessness.
The Touchstone of Life flashes with fresh insights into the mystery of life. Boldly straddling the line between biology and physics, the book offers a breathtaking view of that hidden world where molecular information turns the wheels of life. Loewenstein makes these complex scientific subjects lucid and fascinating, as he sheds light on the most fundamental aspects of our existence.
In The Touchstone of Life, eminent biophysicist Werner Loewenstein seeks answers to ancient riddles by applying information theory to recent discoveries in molecular biology. Taking us into a microscopic world, he lays bare an all-pervading communication network inside and between our cells a web of extraordinary beauty, where molecular information flows in gracefully interlaced circles. Loewenstein then takes us on a journey along that web and we meet the macromolecules, and see how they capture information from their surrounds.
About the Author
Werner R. Loewenstein
was Professor of Physiology and Director of the Cell Physics Laboratory at Columbia University and is presently Director of the Laboratory of Cell Communication at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts. He lives in Woods Hole and Key Biscayne, Florida.
Table of Contents
PART ONE: INFORMATION AND THE ORIGINS OF LIFE
1. Information and Organisms
2. The Cosmic Origins of Information
3. The Growth of the Cosmic Inheritance on Earth
4. From Energy to Bonds to Molecular Information/Entropy Balancing Act
5. The Three-Dimensional Carriers of Biological Information
6. The Growth of Biological Information
PART TWO: INFORMATION FLOW INSIDE CELLS
7. The Two Information Realms
8. The Game of Seek and Find
PART THREE: INFORMATION FLOW BETWEEN CELLS
9. Rules of the Intercellular Communication Game
10. The Broadcasting of Cellular Information
11. Intercellular Communication Cheek-by-Jowl
12. Intercellular Communication Via Channels in the Cell Membrane
13. Neuronal Communication, Neuronal Computation, and Conscious Thought
PART FOUR: THE SCIENCE OF THE PECULIAR
14. How Can You Explain So Wise an Old Bird in a Few Words?
Appendix: A Brief Chronicle of \"Information\"