Life's Origin: The Beginnings of Biological Evolution
By: J. William Schopf (editor)Paperback
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Always a controversial and compelling topic, the origin of life on Earth was considered taboo as an area of inquiry for science as recently as the 1950s. Since then, however, scientists working in this area have made remarkable progress, and an overall picture of how life emerged is coming more clearly into focus. We now know, for example, that the story of life's origin begins not on Earth, but in the interiors of distant stars. This book brings a summary of current research and ideas on life's origin to a wide audience. The contributors, all of whom received the Oparin/Urey Gold Medal of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life, are luminaries in the fields of chemistry, paleobiology, and astrobiology, and in these chapters they discuss their life's work: understanding the what, when, and how of the early evolution of life on Earth. Presented in nontechnical language and including a useful glossary of scientific terms, Life's Origin gives a state-of-the-art encapsulation of the fascinating work now being done by scientists as they begin to characterize life as a natural outcome of the evolution of cosmic matter.
J. William Schopf is Professor of Paleobiology and Director of the IGPP Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is author of Cradle of Life: The Discovery of Earth's Earliest Fossils (1999) and Missing Fossils: Solution to the Mystery of Photosynthesis (1998), and has edited several other volumes.
List of Figures and Tables Introduction: The What, When, and How of Life's Beginnings 1. Historical Understanding of Life's Beginnings John Oro What Is Life? Beliefs and Hypotheses on the Origin of Life Chemical Evolution Personal Reminiscences Cosmological Evolution and the Origin of Life The Earth--Moon System Exploration of the Solar System Life Beyond the Solar System Epilogue References 2. From Big Bang to Primordial Planet: Setting the Stage for the Origin of Life Alan W. Schwartz and Sherwood Chang Introduction Origin of the Biogenic Elements Origin of the Solar System Earth Further Reading 3. Formation of the Building Blocks of Life Stanley L. Miller and Antonio Lazcano Introduction The Heterotrophic Origin of Life Prebiotic Syntheses of Amino Acids Synthesis of Nucleic Acid Bases Prebiotic Synthesis of Sugars Hydrothermal Vents and the Origin of Life Extraterrestrial Organic Compounds and Prebiotic Evolution An Autotrophic Origin of Life? Have Too Many Cooks Spoiled the Soup? References 4. From Building Blocks to the Polymers of Life James P. Ferris The Biopolymers in the First Life The RNA World: The Prebiotic Synthesis of RNA The Role of Polypeptides in the Origin of Life Conclusions References Further Reading 5. The Origin of Biological Information Leslie E. Orgel Introduction The RNA World What's Wrong with the Molecular Biologist's Dream? The Metabolist Argument Conclusion and Outlook References 6. When Did Life Begin? J. William Schopf Introduction Evidence from Living Organisms Evidence from the Rock Record When Was Earth Ready for Life? The What and When of Life's Beginnings Further Reading List of Contributors Glossary Index
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- ID: 9780520233911
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