The Fifth Miracle: Search for the Origins of Life (Penguin Press Science)

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9780140282269: The Fifth Miracle: Search for the Origins of Life (Penguin Press Science)

This work examines what is perhaps science's ultimate question: the origins of life on earth. Paul Davies presents a series of recent discoveries which are leading to some startling theories about the origins of life on earth. New life forms have been discovered in bizarre habitats: deep underground and under the ocean floor. The conditions thought to be necessary for life have thus been radically revised and this has led to the realization that life could very well exist on other planets hither to thought to be inhospitable. Further, cosmic impacts can transport these rock-dwelling micro-organisms from planet to planet across the solar system and beyond. so life could quite easily travel from earth to other planets. Indeed, life could have arrived on earth from elsewhere.

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The origin of life remains one of the most attractive and yet seemingly intractable problems in science. Was it by accident or design that at least 3.5 billion years ago inorganic matter somehow became vitalized on Earth? And if it happened here, could it have happened elsewhere in the Universe? Nobel prize-winning biologist Jacques Monod concluded that life is the product of chance, that "Man at last knows he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe."

Paul Davies cogently argues otherwise in The Fifth Miracle. Originally a British physicist, Davies is now a prize-winning science writer living in Australia. Writing for a general readership, he covers all the main topics surrounding this fundamental question, from microbial biology and biochemistry, through the fossil record and genetics to Martian meteorites. Eminently readable, generally accurate and without mind-boggling detail (references are provided for intellectual explorers), Davies presents the current ideas and data in a very even-handed way. He comes down on the side of those who believe that we are not alone but live in a "self-organizing and self-complexifying universe, governed by ingenious laws that encourage matter to evolve towards life and consciousness." -- Douglas Palmer

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