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First Life: Discovering the Connections between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began

Written by: David Deamer
Narrated by: Michael Lenz
Length: 13 hrs and 57 mins
Categories: Science & Math, Astronomy

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Publisher's Summary

This pathbreaking book explores how life can begin, taking us from cosmic clouds of stardust, to volcanoes on Earth, to the modern chemistry laboratory. Seeking to understand life's connection to the stars, David Deamer introduces astrobiology, a new scientific discipline that studies the origin and evolution of life on Earth and relates it to the birth and death of stars, planet formation, interfaces between minerals, water, and atmosphere, and the physics and chemistry of carbon compounds.

Deamer argues that life began as systems of molecules that assembled into membrane-bound packages. These in turn provided an essential compartment in which more complex molecules assumed new functions required for the origin of life and the beginning of evolution. Deamer takes us from the vivid and unpromising chaos of the Earth four billion years ago up to the present and his own laboratory, where he contemplates the prospects for generating synthetic life.

Engaging and accessible, First Life describes the scientific story of astrobiology while presenting a fascinating hypothesis to explain the origin of life.

The book is published by University of California Press.

©2011 David Deamer (P)2012 Redwood Audiobooks

What the critics say

"This intriguing scholarly text offers many fascinating insights into origin-of-life research.... Highly recommended." ( Choice)
"An authoritative voice weighs in on a sprawling debate that's been raging in the scientific community for many decades, and lays out a succinct and persuasive hypothesis for the origin of life on Earth. Deamer also provides a unique window into the evolution of astrobiology, a field in which he's viewed as both a forefather and an innovator." ( Scientist)

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  • Gary
  • 2013-03-30

Not for the faint of heart

The book is more of a text book than a popular science book. The author is very good at stating what he's going to tell you, than tells you, and than summarize what he just told you.

I understand chemistry even less than I understand bio-chemistry and the book uses both extensively. He'll explain the terms and often I wouldn't understand any of the technical words for whole pages (minutes) at a time, but I would always understand what his point was.

The book is not for the faint of heart and is by far the most difficult book I have ever listen to because of its complexity. After having listen to it, I really have an understanding of how the universe could have become self aware.

The reader does an excellent job of reading the book in a dry manner as if it were a text book. I have a feeling that the book could be used in a graduate course on the origins of life in a bio-chem or biology graduate course.

The book is definitely worth risking a credit on, but beware it is a difficult listen.

10 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • RSZ
  • 2013-10-26

Great book on Origins of Life

Would you listen to First Life: Discovering the Connections between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began again? Why?

I would recommend at least a high level high school Bio and Chem background to enjoy this book. I have listened to this book several times and purchased the paper version as well. Each time I get something new out of it. Well written, nicely organized and thought provoking.

What was one of the most memorable moments of First Life: Discovering the Connections between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began?

How life becomes an emergent property of chemistry is one of the great puzzles. Dr. Deamer makes some very plausible hypothesis and presents some of the difficult challenges in a very readable manner.

What about Michael Lenz’s performance did you like?

Nice narration. Does a good job on the difficult task of describing chemical formula.

Any additional comments?

Although he does not spend much of the book addressing the "Creationists". I think he does a good job on addressing their flawed point of view.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Richard
  • 2014-12-10

Unanswered Questions Superbly Addressed

If you could sum up First Life: Discovering the Connections between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began in three words, what would they be?

Deep time explained.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The favorite character, of course, is the amazing self propagating molecular force of matter which by happenstance was in the right place at the right span of deep time. This deepened my understanding of life as a particular energy state of matter. No doubt it is ubiquitous throughout our endless universe.

Have you listened to any of Michael Lenz’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not listened to him before, but even after going through this book twice I found his narrative style to be pleasing and non distractive.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The author breaks away now and then from in depth explanations of biochemistry to take the listener on various journeys. For example, the scientific trek to the Kamchatka Peninsula in search of the perfect thermal spring was particularly interesting.

Any additional comments?

I highly recommend this semi-technical work, which helped me to understand current research into how living matter may have self-organized over time.

1 person found this helpful