The Touchstone of Life: Molecular Information, Cell Communication, and the Foundations of Life

Paperback | November 15, 2000

byWerner R. Loewenstein

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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 performcoordinated 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 insideand 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 quantumworld; 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 scientificsubjects lucid and fascinating, as he sheds light on the most fundamental aspects of our existence.

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From the Publisher

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 performcoordinated functions. But where does this ord...

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.

other books by Werner R. Loewenstein

Physics in Mind: A Quantum View of the Brain
Physics in Mind: A Quantum View of the Brain

Hardcover|Jan 29 2013

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:384 pages, 5.91 × 8.82 × 1.18 inPublished:November 15, 2000Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195140575

ISBN - 13:9780195140576

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Customer Reviews of The Touchstone of Life: Molecular Information, Cell Communication, and the Foundations of Life

Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from A good, insightful and rewarding read If you are interested in biology or Information Theory, this is good book to read as an introduction only. It's very heavy on biology and, if you pay close attention while reading, you'll learn an awful lot about cells and DNA. However, it is light on anything rigourous related to Information Theory so do not expect a heavy treatment here. He does present some really eye-opening ideas with regards to cell evolution, as well as an intruiging view of cancer and how it can be stopped. Recommended for those interested in the subject.
Date published: 2000-09-26

Extra Content

Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroductionPART ONE: INFORMATION AND THE ORIGINS OF LIFE1. Information and Organisms2. The Cosmic Origins of Information3. The Growth of the Cosmic Inheritance on Earth4. From Energy to Bonds to Molecular Information/Entropy Balancing Act5. The Three-Dimensional Carriers of Biological Information6. The Growth of Biological InformationPART TWO: INFORMATION FLOW INSIDE CELLS7. The Two Information Realms8. The Game of Seek and FindPART THREE: INFORMATION FLOW BETWEEN CELLS9. Rules of the Intercellular Communication Game10. The Broadcasting of Cellular Information11. Intercellular Communication Cheek-by-Jowl12. Intercellular Communication Via Channels in the Cell Membrane13. Neuronal Communication, Neuronal Computation, and Conscious ThoughtPART FOUR: THE SCIENCE OF THE PECULIAR14. How Can You Explain So Wise an Old Bird in a Few Words?EpilogueAppendix: A Brief Chronicle of "Information"Recommended ReadingReferencesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"How has life as we know it come to be? The answer, Loewenstein tells us, lies in information: information flow, not energy per se, is the prime mover of life...molecular information flowing in circles brings forth the organization we call 'organism' and maintains it against the ever-presentdisorganizing pressures in the physics universe. So viewed, the information circle becomes the unit of life. Loewenstein, world-renowned for his discoveries in cell communication and biological information transfer, pursues his argument by applying what he calls the "strong loupe of informationtheory" to molecular biology. With this method he reveals the beauties and intricacies of the myriad webs of communication that bring form from formlessness."--Reading Room