The Genetic Code and the Origin of Life

Springer Science & Business Media
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Early Thoughts on RNA and the Origin of Life The full impact of the essential role of the nucleic acids in biological systems was forcefully demonstrated by the research community in the 1950s. Although Avery and his collaborators had identified DNA as the genetic material responsible for the transformation of bacteria in 1944, it was not until the early 1950s that the Hershey-Chase experiments provided a more direct demonstration of this role. Finally, the structural DNA double helix proposed by Watson and Crick in 1953 clearly created a structural frame work for the role of DNA as both information carrier and as a molecule that could undergo the necessary replication needed for daughter cells. Research continued by Kornberg and his colleagues in the mid-1950s emphasized the biochemistry and enzymology of DNA replication. At the same time, there was a growing interest in the role of RNA. The 1956 dis covery by David Davies and myself showed that polyadenylic acid and polyuridylic acid could form a double-helical RNA molecule but that it differed somewhat from DN A A large number of experiments were subsequendy carried out with synthetic polyribonucleotides which illustrated that RNA could form even more complicated helical structures in which the specificity of hydrogen bonding was the key element in determining the molecular conformation. Finally, in I960,1 could show that it was possible to make a hybrid helix.
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Publisher
Springer Science & Business Media
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Published on
Apr 3, 2007
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Pages
254
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ISBN
9780387268873
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Life Sciences / Biochemistry
Science / Life Sciences / Biophysics
Science / Life Sciences / Cell Biology
Science / Life Sciences / Evolution
Science / Life Sciences / Molecular Biology
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"This is science writing as wonder and as inspiration." —The Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal

From one of the most influential scientists of our time, a dazzling exploration of the hidden laws that govern the life cycle of everything from plants and animals to the cities we live in.

Visionary physicist Geoffrey West is a pioneer in the field of complexity science, the science of emergent systems and networks. The term “complexity” can be misleading, however, because what makes West’s discoveries so beautiful is that he has found an underlying simplicity that unites the seemingly complex and diverse phenomena of living systems, including our bodies, our cities and our businesses.

Fascinated by aging and mortality, West applied the rigor of a physicist to the biological question of why we live as long as we do and no longer. The result was astonishing, and changed science: West found that despite the riotous diversity in mammals, they are all, to a large degree, scaled versions of each other. If you know the size of a mammal, you can use scaling laws to learn everything from how much food it eats per day, what its heart-rate is, how long it will take to mature, its lifespan, and so on. Furthermore, the efficiency of the mammal’s circulatory systems scales up precisely based on weight: if you compare a mouse, a human and an elephant on a logarithmic graph, you find with every doubling of average weight, a species gets 25% more efficient—and lives 25% longer. Fundamentally, he has proven, the issue has to do with the fractal geometry of the networks that supply energy and remove waste from the organism’s body.

West’s work has been game-changing for biologists, but then he made the even bolder move of exploring his work’s applicability. Cities, too, are constellations of networks and laws of scalability relate with eerie precision to them. Recently, West has applied his revolutionary work to the business world. This investigation has led to powerful insights into why some companies thrive while others fail. The implications of these discoveries are far-reaching, and are just beginning to be explored. Scale is a thrilling scientific adventure story about the elemental natural laws that bind us together in simple but profound ways. Through the brilliant mind of Geoffrey West, we can envision how cities, companies and biological life alike are dancing to the same simple, powerful tune.
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