Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos

Life s Ratchet How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos The cells in our bodies consist of molecules made up of the same carbon oxygen and hydrogen atoms found in air and rocks But molecules such as water and sugar are not alive So how do our cells as

  • Title: Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos
  • Author: Peter M. Hoffmann
  • ISBN: 9780465033362
  • Page: 175
  • Format: ebook
  • Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos

    The cells in our bodies consist of molecules, made up of the same carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen atoms found in air and rocks But molecules, such as water and sugar, are not alive So how do our cells assemblies of otherwise dead molecules come to life, and together constitute a living being In Life s Ratchet, physicist Peter M Hoffmann locates the answer to this aThe cells in our bodies consist of molecules, made up of the same carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen atoms found in air and rocks But molecules, such as water and sugar, are not alive So how do our cells assemblies of otherwise dead molecules come to life, and together constitute a living being In Life s Ratchet, physicist Peter M Hoffmann locates the answer to this age old question at the nanoscale The complex molecules of our cells can rightfully be called molecular machines, or nanobots these machines, unlike any other, work autonomously to create order out of chaos Tiny electrical motors turn electrical voltage into motion, tiny factories custom build other molecular machines, and mechanical machines twist, untwist, separate and package strands of DNA The cell is like a city an unfathomable, complex collection of molecular worker bees working together to create something greater than themselves Life, Hoffman argues, emerges from the random motions of atoms filtered through the sophisticated structures of our evolved machinery We are essentially giant assemblies of interacting nanoscale machines machines amazing than can be found in any science fiction novel Incredibly, the molecular machines in our cells function without a mysterious life force, nor do they violate any natural laws Scientists can now prove that life is not supernatural, and that it can be fully understood in the context of science Part history, part cutting edge science, part philosophy, Life s Ratchet takes us from ancient Greece to the laboratories of modern nanotechnology to tell the story of our quest for the machinery of life.

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    One thought on “Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos

    1. Greg Nigh

      Hoffmann, in Life's Rachet, sets out for himself a substantial task: to explain the emergence of life, along with its relentlessly growing complexity over time. He does neither, and gloriously. Or as the brilliant Wolfgang Pauli would say of his students' poor answers, "It's not even wrong."Hoffmann is a physicist. It is that bag of talents that he brings to bear on the perennial questions of evolutionary biology. He sees his background in material sciences as an asset in the problem of life, a [...]

    2. Curtis Abbott

      This is a popularization in the sense of intended for non-scientists, but it's fairly complex in a couple of ways so that it's not a simple read. First, it covers a lot of ground that you might or might not be interested in, from history of science to creationism to lots of technical detail -- piconewtons, equivalent temperature gains from the chemical reaction of single molecules, and much more. I personally found the breadth to be too much, though only by a little. Second, some of the technica [...]

    3. Erçağ Pinçe

      Well, this is the first popular book which I have read about molecular machines. It is well written and joy to read. I admired clear style of Hoffmann throughout the book while conveying important and complex ideas on chance and necessity in emerging life. As a physicist, I liked the chapters on Entropy and Maxwell's Demon the most where a basic statistical and thermodynamical picture of life process was sketched. Maybe only caveat was the long introduction of vital forces and lengthy debates be [...]

    4. Sheng Peng

      I gave up after about 10%.Big excitement/discovery of the millennium is pronounced at the very beginning. And then the author bores you to tears with Aristotle's birth year, death year and his arguments with his contemporaries. Seriously, any popular science book starting with a history chapter should be banned! It reflects a lazy habit of the author carried from their academic publishing career. A writer needs to spend at least 5 minutes on the organization and structure of a book before typing [...]

    5. P.

      If you only read one book concerning the significance of the second law of thermodynamics to life itself, this would be a good one.

    6. Larry

      Carl Sagan opened our minds to the vastness of the universe, Peter Hoffmann helps us peer into the incredibly small.

    7. Tejas Kulkarni

      - Great book highlighting one of the biggest success stories of reductionism. - A few key takeaways: (1) It is only at the nanoscale that different forms of energy (electrical, chemical, mechanical) can be easily interchanged and utilized effectively. This means that most of life in the physical Universe likely follows a similar evolutionary path. At least in terms of deploying a large/varied factory of molecular machines to build life.(2) If reductionism can be brought upon such an ambitious qu [...]

    8. Tadas Talaikis

      Hm don't even know what to think. It was interesting, but without clearly expressed one subject. Or rather expression of it in just a few sentences wasn't enough for me. OK, I clearly understand the concept that people are rarely interested in complex things and as a consequence don't see how evolution (or anything) works (as I'm saying in these cases =you can't get the information [edge] when being in the game), but explaining it in one sentence "if you thought about it" does nothing. On the ot [...]

    9. William

      Peter Hoffman is one of the many physicists who straddles the line between physics and microbiology. In this book, he does that quite successfully. His aim is to show that what we see and call life can be identified by the actions of certain molecules that in aggregate drive the activity of cells. The overriding principle governing the emergence of these molecules is chaos and necessity. The author admonishes those who claim that the complexity of life requires an autonomous life force, a divine [...]

    10. Alex Morgan

      This is a modern day equivalent to Schrödinger's "What is Life?", although it substantiates on how life originated and obviously has more solid science. This is a book, about a physicist's journey through the history of how we defined life in antiquity, to how we define life in modern day science. This book is chalk full of information on how this definition has changed throughout the ages at first. Although, I felt like this book started out strong, that momentum slowly decreases overtime. I d [...]

    11. Alexi Parizeau

      Filled with simple analogies and clear language, along with bits of interesting history behind each concept. I normally devour books, but with this one I took my time, savouring Hoffmann's vision of life and the universe. Got a feeling this book is going to be a classic.

    12. Matthew

      The survey that took up half of the book was a bit too long and the details about the molecular machines that are the book's subject were a bit on the skimpy side because of this.

    13. MarkusQ

      This book was wonderful until the last 30 pages or so, which are mediocre. His conclusion is riddled with a mishmash of placating polemics and pseudo-profound generalities that collapse the moment you stop to think about them. In the epilogue he takes another swing at it and misses again.I suspect he was trying to fit things into some dialectic template (thesis + antithesis= synthesis or some such) but the opposites he's working with (materialism/vitalism, chaos/determinism, holism/reductionism, [...]

    14. Shaun

      Meh. This book didn't really give much payoff compared to what it promised. The first problem was the very long history lesson, which is quite out of place in comparison to the cutting-edge science it ultimately wants to explore. The second problem is the modern science itself. The choice of topics is a bit strange. The author veers between his own research and the research of luminaries that earned Nobel prizes. Sorry bro - I am not convinced that your AFM studies compare to the discovery of th [...]

    15. Lenka Příplatová

      Wow, that's the first time I enjoyed molecular biology, and I am a biologist. Awesome, quite thorough but yet simple introduction into molecular machines as the basis for life, perfect explanation of the 2nd law of thermodynamics for all those pesky creationists (in case any of them reads it, he will never mention it again as an argument; too bad they read just that one stupid book). Don't worry if your are not much into (bio)chemistry and such - it's not my cup of tea either. This book is enjoy [...]

    16. Richard C

      Peter Hoffman writes very well, and conveys complex ideas in an understandable light. The ideas are conveyed with the appropriate excitement, and it is really fascinating to envision "walking" proteins, self-assembling machines, and atomic force microscopes.

    17. Melly

      While I do not have "physics" type mind at all, it clearly explained physics concepts and was mostly easy to understand.

    18. Dan Becker

      A very enjoyable book explaining the chemical, biological, and evolutionary processes that can extract order out of chaos.

    19. John Fawcett

      Super interesting. Put a lot of detail into things I felt I knew intuitively. Some of it was pretty dense, but it was mostly engaging.

    20. Angie Boyter

      Mixed emotions about how to rate this book, so I didn't.It is very well-written and made me laugh or exclaim a number of times.On that basis it deserves a very high rating.Although it tackles a rather philosophical topic, i.e What is life and how does non-life become alive, it is very definitely a science book, quite a detailed one, and there was more detail than I really wanted to know. This is not a flaw in the book, just a bit of a mismatch for my taste, and I did not want to do the author a [...]

    21. Terry

      Life's Ratchet explores the science how molecular phenomenon that take advantage of random small events seemingly allow life to exist. One of the key insights is that if biology took place on a larger scale, nothing would happen as it'd be strictly deterministic while if it took place on a lower scale, random movement and quantum effects would destroy and build up of order. But, since life happens at the inferface of these two scales, life processes can take advantage of the random motion of the [...]

    22. Eric Jackson

      Inspirational and well written. I'll be reading this again. Some of the best molecular biology I've read.

    23. Andrew

      Lots of interesting material. The emergent complexity that arises from the interaction of design and randomness makes for a fascinating and compelling argument for a definition of life. However, the author consistently claims "this evolved" or "evolution did this" while - like all Darwinian evolutionists - never giving any suggestion of proof or incontrivertible evidence. So all living creatures have the same or similar proteins & molecular machines? That can either be an argument for Darwin [...]

    24. David Rubin

      This book is about life on the molecular and nano scale; it is a physics perspective on cell mechanisms which will surprise and delight the lay reader. Books have been published on cell biology before and they are fascinating as well, by as Professor Hoffman points out, more and more scientists are spending their time delving into biology at the molecular level.I would recommend this book as a textbook in biology for non-science majors. A student or two would be inspired to change their majors t [...]

    25. Avinash Pai

      Defining Life is tough nay impossible. But Life is a process for sure. And how that process begins and works at the Nano level is what Peter Hoffmann shows us in the eminently readable book. From the energy of the molecular storm of the nano scale nano machines made from chemicals have made life what is is today. And this is so brilliantly elucidated in this book. Along the way, the author also gives us a tour of what he does working on the Atom Force Microscope, the history of scientific though [...]

    26. Bob

      When I picked this book up from the USU Library new books shelf, I thought it would be sort of an anthology of brief science articles for a popular audience, like you find in Smithsonian magazine and others. By the time I realized my mistake, I was fully engaged.Hoffmann tells the story of the rise and development of nano-biology from the perspective of a physicist centrally involved in the work. With just a little prior background info, he starts about where my education left of back in the 70s [...]

    27. Eloy Fontecha

      Amazing how life organises itself and evolves ending up with the structures we see. However it is even far more amazing the way things work in what we do not see. This book is basically about the tremendous complexity existing at the molecular level of life. It also deals with the ways nature follows to solve the multiple problems arising when life tries to develop itself. Evolution, nanomachines, how to take advantage of the energy existing in the universe, how to do it in ways both efficient a [...]

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